Tigerville, SC – It was a special day in Tigerville as Coach Corey Struss and the rest of the North Greenville Athletics family got to honor the 15 seniors from the first recruiting class in NGU lacrosse program history. This class of seniors took a one-win program to a semi-finalist in Conference Carolinas in a matter of two years. Alex Proly (Senior) was North Greenville’s first, and only, 1st Team All-Conference player followed up by Sky Dupree (Senior), Chris Carpenter (Senior), and Ethan Landreth (Senior) who have all been named to either All-Conference teams or All-Tournament teams. The seniors showed out in a big way as the Crusaders defeated the Bulldogs from Barton College by a score of 18 to 8.
The first quarter was a rocky start for the Crusaders as the teams traded goals back-and-forth for the first eleven and a half minutes of the game. Proly scored the first goal of the game in retro fashion as he streaked through the heart of the Barton defense and hammed a goal home only a couple of minutes into the game. Austin Dixon (Junior) scored three minutes later assisted by Ethan Landreth to take the lead after a Barton goal. Landreth scored a goal of his own late in the quarter to give the Crusaders another one-goal lead, but Derrick Shealy (Sophomore) did not allow the Bulldogs to tie the game again, as he rocketed a shot stick-side high on the goalie for his first goal of the afternoon. In the final minute of the quarter, Dupree collected a lead pass from Taylor Lanzillo (Junior) and found Carpenter on the crease for a senior-to-senior score giving the Crusaders a three-goal lead heading into the second quarter.
North Greenville pulled away in the second quarter scoring five of the seven goals in the period. Proly lead the quarter off again scoring nearly 5 minutes into the period. He put his athleticism on display as he drove down the left alley and rolled back through two defenders to score. The story of the quarter, however, was freshman phenome Thomas Cecere; the freshman scored a total of three goals in the quarter all in highlight fashion. His first goal came at the 9:56 mark remaining off of an assist from Carpenter. His other two goals came back-to-back nearly a minute apart; all of Cecere’s goals came off lasers that stung the top left corner of the cage just clearing the shoulder of the goalie. Dixon scored his second goal of the game during the second period to give the Crusaders a six-goal lead.
The Crusaders entered the second half on a high with the seniors showing out on both sides of the ball. Carpenter made his presence known once again as he scored his second goal of the game a minute into the second half off an assist from Dixon. The Bulldogs, however, were unphased by the early goal and scored three goals of their own to start the second half. After giving up four goals in the first half and then three quick goals in the second, the Crusader defense toughened up and started to work the Bulldog offense. Chris Wieckhorst (Junior), Jaren Szafranski (Senior), and Zeth Sutton (Junior) all played a stellar game for the Crusaders. Shortly after the three-goal run by the Bulldogs Szafranski recorded his caused turnover by batting down a pass and winning a tough ground ball near the Crusader sideline. Wieckhorst had an active stick batting down multiple passes and causing two different turnovers leading to transition opportunities. Sutton anchored the defensive unit taking on the Bulldogs best player and not allowing him to score.
North Greenville responded accordingly to the Bulldog run scoring four unanswered goals to finish the third quarter. Dixon notched another goal two minutes after the final Barton goal to stifle all of the momentum the Bulldogs built up. Landreth then showed off his sharpshooting ability as he netted two different goals. The first goal came from a man-up opportunity off an assist from Proly; the other a through pass from Kenny Wessels (Junior). Dixon finished off the quarter taking an absolute rip from 12-yards out that stung the top right side of the cage bringing all of the soaked fans in Pepsi Stadium to their feet.
The final quarter of play was all about the Crusaders and showing off the cornerstone senior class. Barton scored one garbage goal in the quarter, but the Crusaders scored three goals that were all Sportscenter worthy. The first goal of the quarter came from Wieckhorst who took a clear coast-to-coast and placed the ball in the top left-hand corner of the cage. The shot rang off the left pipe and into the cage netting sending the Crusader bench into a frenzy. Landreth scored the second goal of the period by working his way up from behind the cage and finishing the ball in tight. Kyle Hunziker (Senior) scored the final goal of the game by shaking his defender and working his way up the right side of the cage, then rolling through two different defenders and finishing the ball just below the stick of the goalie. The seniors were put on display in the final quarter as all 13 active seniors saw playing time on the field. At the end of the game, the Crusaders walked out of the regular season with an 18 – 8 victory.
Without question, the most valuable player on the defensive side of the ball for the Crusaders was goalie Braeden Dixon (Junior) who finished the game with 12 saves for the Crusaders. Dixon has been a rock in the cage for the Crusaders during his three years at North Greenville. Coming off of his recent injury the Crusaders are looking for Dixon to continue his excellent play on into the Conference Carolinas playoffs.
The Crusaders will now head into the playoffs looking to knock off the Bulldogs once again in the first round of the playoffs next Tuesday, April 23rd. That game is set to face-off in Tigerville at 4 p.m.