KNOXVILLE — St. John’s Catholic Prep boys lacrosse player JD Nett won 17 of 20 faceoffs against Beth Tfiloh on Tuesday.
Nothing new there.
“On the season, he’s above 70, 75 percent on faceoffs,” Vikings coach Matt Williams said. “It’s given us a huge edge every game.”
Nonetheless, Nett’s latest impressive faceoff performance was easily overshadowed by something else he did.
After the Vikings scored twice in the final 1 minute, 15 seconds to send the game into overtime, Nett caught a right-to-left pass from Brody Kavanagh and scored with 3:18 left in the extra period to give St. John’s a 9-8 win over the Warriors at Othello Regional Park.
With the victory, St. John’s (6-2) clinched a winning season for the first time since 2017.
“For my first year, it surpasses expectations,” said Williams, who is coaching his first full season after seeing the coronavirus pandemic wipe out what would’ve been his inaugural season in 2020. “We’re on house money, and we’re so excited to see where it ends up.”
While Nett doesn’t score game-winners as frequently as he wins faceoffs, this wasn’t a first for him. In late April, his goal with 16 seconds left gave St. John’s a 4-2 win over Jemicy.
And for all the spectacular saves Vikings goalie Tyler Grove made on Tuesday, he was glad Nett ensured he wouldn’t have to make another.
“So relieved,” Grove said. “I just didn’t want the ball to come down.”
Nett, who finished with two goals and three assists, praised Kavanaugh’s feed on the game’s final play.
“He really got it done, he found me on the crease, and we capitalized when it mattered most,” said Nett, who fired a shot almost immediately after catching the ball. “You’ve got to act fast.”
That same mindset helps Nett win faceoffs.
“He does some outside training on it, and he’s so quick,” Williams said. “He anticipates that whistle, and he’s got just an incredible reaction.”
“I love facing off. I’ve been doing it for a couple years now,” Nett said. “I go to the Faceoff Academy to train, and I just have fun with it. It’s been changing, their changing it, and I’ve been practicing a lot.”
The final score marked the only time the Vikings led all game, although they never trailed by more than two and tied the game five times.
“A ton of credit to the other team. They made a ton of plays,” Williams said. “Number 20 [Drew Goldscheider] was just killing us, he’s a total athlete.”
Goldscheider scored Beth Tfiloh’s final two goals, allowing them to take an 8-6 lead into the final two minutes. But thanks to a non-releasable, one-minute unsportsmanlike foul on a Warriors player, the Vikings enjoyed a man advantage down the stretch and didn’t waste the opportunity.
Griffin Sheridan scored with 1:15 left to narrow Beth Tfiloh’s lead, and Keller Neuman scored his team-high fourth goal to tie the game with 1:01 left.
Grove’s ability to block shots — he finished with 14 saves — helped keep the Vikings in striking distance throughout the game.
“I just throw my body, do all I can to get there and just do it for the team,” Grove said of his approach.
He said he learned a lot about his craft from his older brother Josh, who was the Vikings’ goalie before graduating last year.
“So many saves. He’s going to be playing at the next level in goal, following in his brother’s footsteps,” Williams said of Ty Grove. “His brother was our goalie last year, but his season ended with COVID, so to have him fill that void and step up to the moment has been great.”
And like so many others who play big roles for the Vikings, Grove — a sophomore — is young. Nett and Neuman are both sophomores, and Sheridan, who had two goals, is a freshman.
“Just great to have this young group of guys growing throughout the season,” Grove said.
Junior Max Piraino also scored for St. John’s, battling through a crowd of defenders and muscling in a close-range shot to tie the game at 2-2 with 3.8 seconds left in the first quarter.
NOTES — After a lightning delay with 2:38 left in the second quarter, the third and fourth quarters were 10-minute periods and used a running clock except for the final two minutes of regulation.