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St. Mary’s Ryken head boys lacrosse coach John Sothoron believed that he and his Knights had the defensive game to defeat the defending Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champion Gonzaga Eagles, from Washington, D.C., on Thursday night.

But with 18 total turnovers and only two goals on the offensive end, the 7-2 home loss erased the defensive efforts.

Gonzaga (D.C.) 7, St. Mary’s Ryken 2

Gonzaga 2 3 1 1

Ryken 1 0 1 0

Goals: Gonzaga (Fitzpatrick 2, Corboy 2, Myers, O’Berry, Planning); Ryken (Wayson 2)

Saves: Gonzaga (Farrell 10); Ryken (Egnaczyk 10)

Praising his goalie, junior Garret Egnaczyk (10 saves), Sothoron was equally upset at his offense.

“Our offense killed us, they killed us,” Sothoron said. “I don’t know if it was a matter of nerves, but they didn’t play their regular game. They threw the ball away, we shot the ball poorly, you name it and we didn’t do it.”

He added, “Our defense and goalie deserve a lot of credit. I thought they did a great job. They played well enough for us to win the game had our offense at the other end had done their job. It could have been a great game here.”

The Gonzaga defense showed its true strength when it held Ryken scoreless and forced two turnovers during a three-minute, man-down situation in the fourth quarter.

“Every single day, they show up,” Gonzaga head coach Casey O’Neill said. “For the last three to four years, our defensive coordinator, Jeff King, has stepped in and sort of generated great passion to play defense. Then, it starts with these seniors ... and those guys just know what’s going on.”

One of those seniors, Jack Slater, knew what it meant to hold Ryken scoreless during that three-minute stretch with the game still in the balance, Gonzaga only holding a 6-2 lead at the time.

“That was so crucial,” Slater said. “It was definitely coming down to the wire and we were getting tired, but the three minutes went by like that. We pushed out when they dropped the ball for a second ... and it all just came together really.”

O’Neill called Slater, Matt Boarder, Connor Spencer and goalie Timmy Farrell leaders and guys who understand the defensive concepts and slides.

“With the offense, some games we’re going to score 12 [goals] and some games we’re going to score seven,” O’Neill saidd, “but on the other side of the field, we know we’re going to be OK.”

Slater added, “Our defense had been playing well all game. Man-down [defense] has been good all year, so I really wasn’t worried and I knew that we would be able to hold them, move it up and move it out.”

Gonzaga (7-2, 2-0 WCAC) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first quarter with goals from Joe Fitzpatrick and Alex Corboy, who each scored two goals in the win.

Ryken cut the lead to 2-1 with 4 minutes 53 seconds remaining in the first quarter on a Garret Wayson goal, but the Eagles scored three unanswered second-quarter goals to take a 5-1 lead at halftime.

Wayson added his second goal three minutes into the third quarter, but that would complete the Ryken offensive output for the game.

“It’s a shame,” Sothoron said. “I am disappointed, and some of my best players had poor nights.”

Sothoron and the Knights found their winning ways again on Saturday, winning the South River Tournament with a 12-8 victory over Stephen Decatur and an 8-7 victory over the hosts and defending Class 4A state champion South River, who went undefeated last year at 19-0.

Senior Romar Dennis scored four goals in the South River victory.

Nathan Blondino and Austin Short also added two goals each in the win.

With the tournament wins, Ryken improved to 5-2 overall. The loss to Gonzaga was the first WCAC loss of the season for the Knights, evening their record to 1-1.

Ryken will be at Highland (Va.) at 4 p.m. Thursday.

jmccray@somdnews.com