Home field advantage played its role in an intense game of Stuyvesant lacrosse on Thursday, May 17. The top-seeded James Madison Knights hosted the fourth-seeded Peglegs in the PSAL Bowl Division semi-finals. The two top-tier teams battled to the very end, but the Knights pulled away with a 13-10 win to advance to the Bowl Division Finals.
Before the game even started, the Peglegs were faced with personnel challenges. Seniors Shuqi Gao, the team’s second highest scorer with 34 goals on the season, and Kevin Choi, the leading defenseman in ground balls with 28 on the season, were suspended the day before by Athletic Director Lawrence Barth for a combination of lateness and failed classes. The team shifted junior Roy Choi from midfield to attack, and sophomore Clay Walsh stepped into the starting defense, having proven himself in the last few games after making the switch from attack.
The first few minutes of the game saw no scoring but a lot of physical play and fighting for the ball. The Knights drew first blood off a blocked clearing attempt by senior and goalie Avinash Ramsumair, which turned into a quick goal. Soon after, Roy Choi beat his defender off a dodge and opened the scoring for the Peglegs. The Knights scored two more goals, but the Peglegs responded with goals from co-captains sophomore Noah Kramer and senior Ian Chan.
The Knights got on the board first in the second quarter, but they started to lose self-control. The team was often playing man-down, as it was called for many flagrant penalties. The large, rowdy crowd encouraged the team to lay people out, and at least one spectator was ejected by the officials. At the half, the score was 7-6 in the Knights’ favor.
“I knew they were going to come out and be their usual selves and hit us a lot, which they did. They were also a fast and good shooting team, so they met our expectations,” Kramer said.
In the third and fourth quarters, the Peglegs played catch-up. The Knights had built the lead up to five goals with just under six minutes left. “We fell behind because our defense didn’t communicate, we weren’t ready for their fast break, and they played a little faster lacrosse than us,” Chan said. The Peglegs, led by Kramer, who scored 4 goals, and Roy Choi, who scored 3 goals, came back to come within two goals in the final minutes, but the Knights got the final goal to kill the rally.
“Overall, we played awesome. There were some players that really stepped up when they had to,” coach Anthony Bascone said. “If we played well throughout the whole game it would have ended differently, but we had glimpses of awesomeness throughout the game, unfortunately it wasn’t every quarter.”
The Peglegs finished the regular season with a 7-6 record. The team didn’t play a rescheduled 14th game against the Albert Tuitt Educational Campus Panthers, which had been postponed until after the regular season, because it would not have changed the Peglegs’ seed.
However, the fact that this game was never played prevented Kramer, who had 51 goals on the season, from taking the PSAL scoring title away from junior Kevin Goshorn of the Frederick Douglas Academy Lions, who had three more goals than Kramer. “I know that if we had that 14th game, he would be number one in the PSAL in scoring. But in terms of games played and goals, in my opinion, he led the league,” Bascone said.
This was the third consecutive season in which the Peglegs qualified for the playoffs. The Peglegs matched last year’s total of four players in the top 20 in the Bowl Division in terms of assists, but the number of goals scorers in the top 20 dropped from four to three. Aside from James Madison and Frederick Douglas, the Peglegs beat every team they played at least once.
“Things don’t always go as you want them to, but look at the bright side, and you see a lot of up-and-coming players,” Chan said. “We’ll come back with a vengeance next year.”