SPRINGFIELD — While both sides were wearing familiar colors at La Salle Tuesday, their credentials had dramatically changed.
In recent years, a boys lacrosse game between La Salle and Malvern Prep would have featured the nationally ranked Explorers dueling a talented, up-and-coming Friars team, which would battle tooth and nail only to come up just short of an upset victory.
That was, once again, the plot when La Salle hosted Malvern Tuesday, only this time it was the nationally ranked Friars who got a scare from the young and talented Explorers.
While they never led, the Explorers went back and forth with the Friars, tying the game at 5 with 5:49 left in the fourth quarter, only to see Ryan Hilburn find the net just 13 seconds later to give Malvern a hard-earned 6-5 win.
The Friars, who came into the game with a gaudy 6-0 record, were expected to defeat the returning state-champion Explorers, who had dropped their first two games of the season. But no one on the Malvern side expected it to be easy.
"After the Avon Grove game last week, we were trying to play a full four quarters,' said Hilburn, recalling last week's contest between the two schools in which the Friars blew a five-goal, second-half lead and trailed with 1:00 left before rallying to win in overtime. "We knew La Salle was young, but we also knew they were talented.
"I don't think we played a full four quarters, but we got the win.'
Malvern got the win because Jarrett Donaghy alertly corralled a groundball in the midfield, broke up field and got the ball to an open Hilburn.
"That was just a heads-up play by Jarrett,' Hilburn said. "He made a smart play, got a fastbreak going, and I just finished.'
The goal came just 13 seconds after Adam Kerrigan had tied the game off a feed from Kevin Lacon that forged the fourth tie of the game.
The Explorers, perhaps still jubilant after the tying goal, were caught out-manned for the game-winner.
"We played hard the whole game,' said Explorers captain Stephen Hudak, "and it was a heartbreaker to give up that goal.
"But we battled until the end. We got a couple of looks, we just have to finish them.'
Perhaps fueled by the near-fatal collapse against Avon Grove, the Friars came out hard Tuesday, using goals by Kevin McGreary, Conor Glancy and Kyle Anderson to take a 3-1 lead after one period.
Malvern did not let up in the second quarter, but Explorers goaltender Colin McDougall came up huge, making six saves in period. And a goal by Derek Bitzer had the contest knotted at 3 before Adam Goldner's goal enabled the visitors to go into the break with a 4-3 advantage.
Both McDougall and Friars netminder Carson Cocco had three saves in the third period, but La Salle's Michael Soufleris' goal at the 3:03 mark sent the game into the final period tied at 4.
Tripp Traynor pushed the Friars out to a 5-4 edge with 8:39 left, but Kerrigan's tally knotted it at 5.
The tie would last just 13 seconds.
"We try not to look at that stuff,' said Hilburn, when asked about the team's national ranking. "Our Inter-Ac (League) schedule is coming up, and we're looking forward to that.
"We just have to take the games one at a time and try and be ready for each of them.'
As for the Explorers, in the unaccustomed position of being 0-3, they're not close to being in panic mode.
"We've had some tough competition to start the year,' Hudak said, "but we're going to work every day. We have a good team here, we just have to put the pieces together.
"We have a lot of kids who are stepping up and we have one of the best coaching staffs in the country and they always put us in position to win games.'
OVERTIME: La Salle's MacDougal finished with 14 saves, while Cocco had five stops. ... Malvern outshot La Salle, 28-16. ... Goldner and Anderson each had a goal and an assist for Malvern while Kerrigan and Michael Rihm had a goal and an assist for the Explorers.