Relaxed Bishop Shanahan cruises past Hershey for 2nd straight PIAA crown

By Joseph Santoliquito

WEST CHESTER – It’s a little game the Bishop Shanahan boys’ lacrosse team plays before boarding the bus to wherever they have to go. Kyle Gucwa pretends to be a goalie and his Eagles’ teammates will take practice shots at him with tennis balls.

The thing is, Gucwa, though a very good attackman, isn’t a very good goalie. Actually, he’s pretty bad. In fact, he’s so bad that it’s comical.

That’s how the Shanahan team left school Saturday afternoon heading toward defending its PIAA Class AA state championship – laughing on their way to West Chester East High School, where the Eagles met Hershey, the District 3 champion.

For just over the first eight minutes, there wasn’t much to laugh about. Hershey, which lost to the Eagles 15-4 on March 30, was playing Shanahan tough.

Then the damn broke, and the Eagles scored five goals in a 1-minute, 45-second span. That was it. Shanahan never looked back and Hershey, appearing in the state championship for the first time, never got within four goals, as the Eagles repeated, beating Hershey, 12-3.

Bishop Shanahan celebrates the PIAA Class AA championship

The state title ended an amazing season for Shanahan, which ended the year with 20 consecutive wins and a 22-1 mark overall, while Hershey capped its historic run with a 19-6 mark and the first Mid Penn League team to make a boys’ PIAA final.

Shanahan sophomore Owen Murray scored a game-high and career-best four goals to lead the Eagles, with support from Gucwa’s three goals, Bryan Rafferty’s two and one goal each from Vincent Riccardo, Owen Mehok and Connor Whalen. Hershey was paced by two goals from Nick Rizzo and one from Colin Kondracki.

Gabe Goforth (Maryland) handed out three assists for Shanahan.

“We’ve always been very confident, and all we really needed was just one, and then we started to get rolling after that,” Goforth said. “We play with a lot of poise. No matter where or who we’re playing. We all have our pre-game things, and Gucwa plays goalie and we all shoot on him.

“I think I maybe scored five against him. We all laugh. It’s a good time.”

Once the Shanahan engine began rolling, faceoff man Tyler Kingsbury (High Point signee) took over. He won 9 of 12 faceoffs when the game was closely contested and won 13 of 19 for the game.

Murray is only a sophomore and he’s performed well in big games. He played his role, dodged, looked to create openings for teammates.

“We locked in and ready to go,” Murray said. “We were loose coming into this game. We looked to dominate and that’s what we did.”

It was Murray’s natural hat trick in the first quarter that opened the flood gates. Hershey didn’t help itself by turning over the ball four times in the first quarter.

“We made a lot of unforced errors, and it’s something that you can’t do against a team as good as they are,” said Hershey seniors Mark Sickler, who’s headed to Army. “I think we were a little nervous. We played a little earlier in the season. They beat us pretty good. Some kids realized they were scared at first.

“We told each other at halftime and played with our hearts. That’s what mattered in the end. We let some fastbreak goals up and that really got to us.”

Shanahan coach Jon Heisman has had some special teams in the past. This 2019 Shanahan team will be among his most memorable.

The word that comes to mind is “relaxed.”

“Very much so, they’re absolutely unbelievable,” said Heisman, holding a classic wooden lacrosse. “They’re the most composed group of kids that I’ve had in a long, long time. They took care of business. Our senior leadership was outstanding, and once we got our faceoff game going, people are in trouble.

“We saw (Virginia NCAA national champion head coach) Lars Tiffany holding a wooden stick and we wanted to get our mojo going, so we ordered a wooden stick. I brought it in for a little luck for ourselves. The kids just loved it, running around with it.

“I think what I’ll remember most was the outstanding bonding and outstanding friendship. Every moment was special with these kids. Maybe we started a new tradition with the stick. We’ll see.”

PIAA Class AA championship

Bishop Shanahan 12, Hershey 3
Hershey                         1-1-0-1  –  3
Bishop Shanahan      5-3-2-2 – 12

Nick Rizzo: 2 goals
Colin Kondracki: 1 goal
Jay Rodriguez: 2 assists
Brady Bowman: 7 saves

Bishop Shanahan
Owen Murray: 4 goals, 3 assists
Kyle Gucwa: 3 goals, 1 assist
Bryan Rafferty: 2 goals, 1 assist
Vincent Riccardo: 1 goal
Owen Mehok: 1 goal
Connor Whalen: 1 goal
Gave Goforth: 3 assists
Nick Pezone: 9 saves

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