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Recap: No. 1 Xaverian 9, No. 14 CM 6

WESTWOOD, Mass. -- Jake Cox scored three goals, including two in the third quarter as Xaverian broke open a tied game with six second half goals to beat Catholic Conference rival Catholic Memorial 9-6 on Tuesday under the lights at the Hawk Bowl.

“We absolutely expected it to be a battle. They always play us tough whether home or away,” said Xaverian coach Tim Gardner. “They really played physical; they played great defense [and] it took us a while to find our stride defensively.”

About the change in the second half that allowed the Hawks to pull away, Gardner added, “We calmed down and started putting our shots on cage. Their keeper played well...and I think our guys were trying to shoot too aggressively -- trying to pick corners instead of trying to put shots on cage.”

CM jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first quarter against the defending Division 1 state champions. Senior Zack O’Brien had the first of his two assists on the night and picked out sophomore Frank Cosolito on the far post for the opener. With 3:51 left in the first quarter, Robert Ryan doubled the lead with a shot to the low corner.

Xaverian struggled to get its offense going in the first quarter and sophomore CM goalie Joe Zegarelli made several key stops. CM coach Kevin Lynch was pleased with the work of his young defensive unit.

“I thought it was a pretty good defensive battle, especially in the first half,” he said. “Our defensive plays good one-on-one ‘D.’ They’re a young unit, but they’re starting to talk to each other and learn each other’s tendencies and our goalie played well as well.”

Less than a minute into the second, the Hawks found a breakthrough as Cox buried his first of the game to make it 2-1. The goal gave Xaverian momentum and four minutes later Boston University-commit Jack Wheeler raced straight down the middle of the field and fired the Hawks level.

With 2:30 remaining in the half, D.J. Sperzel gave Xaverian its first lead at 3-2 on an assist from Nick Shaw.

Gardner was not pleased with how his team looked before the break. He said, “I don’t think we were playing well in the first half. We turned over the ball a lot in the first half and it certainly gave them a lot more offensive opportunities than we had.”

CM tied the game early in the third quarter, but Xaverian would then score five of the next six goals and started to get separation from the Knights.

Goals by Cox and Lukas Buckley made it 5-3, but then CM senior Kevin Bletzer finally got loose for a second and fired an unstoppable shot past Dan Sprague. If the Knights hoped that the goal would lead to momentum, Cox ended those thoughts with a rocket of his own to make it 6-4 Hawks after three quarters.

“Whenever we let him run, he made us pay. We tried to take him out of the offensive flow,” said Gardner about CM’s senior midfielder. “Jake made a good play to answer that goal and it was a good individual effort.”

One of the reasons that Xaverian stayed in the lead was the play of Sprague. The senior goalie was credited with 14 saves and made several key stops including a pair early in the game to rob Curt Bletzer and Gunnar Mckenzie when it was a 2-0 game. He also made a huge point-blank save in the third quarter to keep the Hawks up by one.

Gardner said, “Dan Sprague had a good day out there. He is growing into the role of being a senior and being a leader and I think was his best day of the season so far.”

Shaw and Buckley extended the Xaverian lead to 8-4 midway through the fourth quarter. Freshman Colin Casey gave the Knights hope with 4:15 left in the game, but Sperzel buried his second of the game to make it 9-5. Ryan’s second goal wrapped up the scoring in the final minute.

“They put the ones that they need to in,” said Lynch. “I thought we had some chances to maybe gain some momentum back and they got the goals when they needed.”

Xaverian will take on conference rival St. John’s Prep next, while Catholic Memorial takes on Malden Catholic.