And the host Tigers wasted little time asserting themselves as they scored twice in the first 41 seconds and five times in the first 8:32 en route to an 18-4 victory over Kentucky Country Day. The Tigers (18-4) peppered the Bearcats with 40 shots as they controlled play throughout the match.
And it was a senior-laden effort, at least from a statistical perspective. Seniors scored 14 of the goals and contributed 10 of the 11 Tigers assists. Collin Roppel, who earned most valuable player honors with his three goals and four assists, said it felt like a senior night.
“With the crowd and the students, everyone being here, and family, it definitely felt like it,” he said. “It was a special night.”
That special night got its start thanks to a sophomore. Blake Roshkowski put the Tigers on board just 34 seconds into the game. It was the first of his three goals on the evening, and before the Tigers fans finished celebrating the early lead, Leland Gray would double the advantage just seven seconds later. Gray, who will play lacrosse for Centre College next year, finished with four goals and two assists.
Despite having only three seniors on his bench, that did not dampen the expectations for KCD coach Ryan Smith against the more veteran Tigers.
“Our expectations were to play our game and win,” he said. “And, more importantly, to execute play by play. That’s something we didn’t do early, and we paid dearly for it.”
The Bearcats (13-3) fought back late in the first quarter, capitalizing on a couple of Tigers defensive lapses to score goals 1:15 apart. Sophomore Padric Dermody, who scored all four KCD goals, cut the lead to 5-2 with just two seconds left in the first quarter. Those lapses led St. Xavier coach Scott Howe to call a timeout after the second goal.
Playing in the final is nothing new to St. Xavier, which has played in 14 of the 15 finals. The Tigers have won 10, including seven of the last eight. But Howe said it’s no fun to just get to the title game.
“The ones you lose, I’m still thinking about those in December,” said Howe, who also earned coach of the year honors.
A minute into the second quarter, Jack Werner scored the first of his two goals to wrestle back momentum from KCD and ensure his coach wouldn’t be thinking about this game seven months from now.
With each year, Gray said the program took big strides as the players improved and the practices became more competitive.
“It’s been brotherhood at its finest,” he said about his fellow seniors. “Everyone has been so nice to each other. It’s been a great environment to be in, and I’ll miss it.”
After the game, St. X goalie Max Carter, a Bellarmine signee, was named Mr. Lacrosse.