By Matt Chandik
LILacrosseNews.com, Posted 6/24/12
RADNOR, Pa. – Despite their best efforts, Matthew Kavanagh and Steven Pontrello and the United States U19 squad suffered a heartbreaking defeat Saturday night at Radnor High.
Sure, Kavanagh (Chaminade, NY/Hotchkiss School, Conn., Notre Dame signee) helped bring USA back from a four-goal halftime deficit with five goals, but it wasn’t enough for him.
And maybe Pontrello, (St. Augustine Prep, North Carolina) came up with a huge second-half hat trick, one that included the goal that sent the game into overtime and a tally in the first extra frame.
But their heroics didn’t stop the Philly All-Stars from dealing USA a 15-14 loss at Radnor High School Saturday night. The exhibition game left the US squad 1-1 in the preseason as it gears for the World Championships July 12-21 at Turku, Finland.
“I thought we had a really good chance,” Pontrello said. “We were in a huge hole in the beginning, so we just kept fighting, making team plays one-by-one and trying to climb back. We wanted to put the pedal down and try to get the lead, but this Pennsylvania team is really good and they really took it to us.”
Philly did take it to the U.S. team, but Kavanagh helped erase a 7-3 halftime deficit by scoring the first three goals of the second half against his future Irish teammate, Conor Kelly (Haverford School). Kavanagh had Kelly’s number early on, including the third straight goal and fifth of the game on a laser that Kelly stood no chance on. Getting a chance to play against Kelly and getting the better of him for the first part of the second half was a different feeling for Kavanagh.
“It’s pretty cool,” Kavanagh said. “I didn’t really talk to him (Kelly) during the game. I didn’t want to communicate. I was just open, got my hands free, and then he made some big saves on me later in the game. I guess I was feeling it.”
For his part, Kelly is just happy with getting a chance to be on Kavanagh’s team in South Bend, Ind., as opposed to having the sniper rocketing shots against him when it counts.
“I’m glad he’s going to be on my team,” Kelly said. “He got me good.”
For a team that has cruised in so many of its games and is rarely tested, much like its 12-4 dismantling of the Long Island All-Stars, playing a thriller of a game against a team that featured so much elite talent from the Philly area will help the six-time champion U.S. team (36-0 overall in World Championship play) in the long run.
“It’s going to give us momentum, and it’s going to help us a lot when we get to Finland in those world championship games,” Pontrello said. “I love our chemistry, I love our team. We still have a lot to work on as a team on offense, and defensively talking, but I like where we are right now.”
Much like Pontrello, Kavanagh also recognized the good that a loss can do for a U.S. team that is expected to receive a major challenge from Canada, and it’s something they’ll use as motivation in the championships.
“It’ll definitely help us in the future,” Kavanagh said. “There’s always a defining point in the season, a turning point, so for us, we learned a lot about ourselves. We were down by four at the half, kept fighting back, so it really tells us something about our character.”
And with the talent assembled on that roster, a little extra character could make this team lethal.