SOUTH BURLINGTON – The first goal played hide-and-seek. Rifled cleanly inside the goal frame, it somehow turned up on the outside of the netting before earning official confirmation in the scorebook.
The last goal came in a flash, barely 10 seconds after a late timeout. Unlike the 10 others, it had no answer.
And the lacrosse in the 45 minutes that elapsed between the bookend tallies lived up to the billing. Moves and countermoves. Tense and entertaining.
Only this time, breaking from the two previous acts this year between Champlain Valley and South Burlington, it was the No. 6 Redhawks who emerged on top, 6-5 winners over the second-seeded Rebels in the Division I high school boys lacrosse semifinals on Monday night.
Dylan Schaefer’s lone goal provided the difference, a solo charge through the defense with less than two minutes to play besting South Burlington goalie Mike Blauvelt (15 saves) to send the two-time defending state champions back to the title game.
“He’s been a guy who’s done well the last few years against us and, actually, I think that’s the first goal he’s scored against us in three games,” Rebels (13-4) coach Garnet Smith said. “It’s like we did everything we had to do against him — except at that last time.”
“I think it was — I think it was the first time I scored on them all year,” Schaefer said.
Marked out of the action for most of the night, the speedy attacker made good on his only true chance of the night, a designed play called “Lefty,” Schaefer said.
“I came in with the ball to split-dodge down the alley … the goal was to pass it but the (defensive) he came late, I saw (Blauvelt) cheating low and I went upstairsm,” Schaefer said.
CVU will face the winner of Tuesday’s semifinal between top seed Middlebury and No. 4 Essex.
The Redhawks (12-6), winners of eight straight, came out on the short end of two narrow defeats against the Rebels earlier this spring, the latest in overtime. Monday was the product of two teams that knew each other inside and out.
“It’s understanding the matchups. South Burlington knows exactly what we do, we know what they run on defense, and it becomes just a huge chess match,” CVU coach Dave Trevithick said. “That’s what’s so much fun coaching against Gar, he does such a good job with that team. You know you’re going to see some sort of wrinkle against them, you just don’t know what.”
Said Smith: “It was a lot of energy out here between these two teams because they love to play each other but also hate to play against each other — it’s why we play the game.”
After South Burlington staked a 2-1 lead through one quarter on goals from Kyle Murakami and Dylan Avery, the Redhawks matched in the second frame with an equalizer through Elliott Mitchell and a strike by Charlie Bernicke (hat trick) as the rivals forged a 3-3 tie at halftime.
Knotted 4-4 after three periods — Murakami and Bernicke registered their second goals of the night just 45 seconds apart — it was CVU that tipped the balance with 6:41 remaining.
Blauvelt turned away a low, skidding shot from distance but the rebound popped left to the sophomore Bernicke to shovel in the go-ahead goal.
“That one-handed goal was a huge spark for us. It changed everything,” Trevithick said.
Pressing to find another tying goal, the Rebels leveled through a leaping, unassisted strike on the right side by Cam Nolting (two assists) with 4:16 left.
But the Redhawks, who started the year 0-4, didn’t falter. Goalie Matt Murakami denied every other shot he faced in the frame and CVU prevailed for the first time this season in a one-goal game — after learning the hard way the first four tries.
“Those one-goal games I think, a lot of the times, we didn’t keep composure when things got tough,” Trevithick said. “Even though, here, the wheels got a little shaky, we at least kept them on.”
And Schaefer, burned on the decisive play in that overtime loss to the Rebels last month, made sure they stayed there.
“I was the one getting dodged when they scored the overtime winning goal,” Schaefer said. “So to get the opportunity to put the team ahead was a relief, a little sweet revenge.”