One thousand eighty-eight days.
That’s how long it had been, prior to yesterday, since Upper Darby’s last Central League win. That one came May 10, 2010, when the Royals beat Marple Newtown, 14-8. That was the last of the three league games that Upper Darby won that year and since then, the Royals hadn’t been very competitive.
But thanks to four goals from Ryan Simpson, five points from Chris Stone and an incredible 21-save effort from Ryan Soley, Upper Darby finally found itself in the win column thanks to a nailbiting 8-7 triumph over Harriton that snapped its 32-game losing streak.
And that, according to coach Warren Danenza, is about as good as it gets.
“This is enormous,” said Danenza, making sure to emphasize the last word. “Obviously, at Upper Darby, it’s always great to get a win. But to break a streak of 32-straight just kind of re-affirms all of the hard work and sacrifice that the kids and parents have made over the past year and the past two years. It supports everything we’ve been preaching and it’s justified their sacrifices.”
To make things even sweeter, the win came on the Royals’ Senior Night and marked the first time that the exiting seniors claimed a Central League win. The added turnout at Memorial Stadium provided a jolt for a team that so badly needed it.
“We just had phenomenal fan support,” Danenza said. “When you’re coaching at a school where there’s roughly 3,200 kids and constantly having home games where there’s 20 or so people in the seats, it’s tough. But seeing the turnout we had for our seniors was absolutely phenomenal. It affirms our message that we’re trying to change the perception of Upper Darby lacrosse.”
The Royals trailed, 2-1, after a quarter, then came to life and took a lead. Harriton clawed back, though, but then Upper Darby improbably killed a three-minute non-releasable penalty. That, according to Danenza, was a major turning point.
“Emotion was running out toward the end and to see them just keep pushing and digging, words can’t even explain how proud I am,” Danenza said. “It’s humbling. I like to tell the kids that they’re more resilient than they’ll ever understand. They’ve been through a lot on and off the field and they keep getting back up. To see it all pay off on Senior Night is tremendous.”
Danenza knows that the Royals won’t blossom into a powerhouse overnight, but make no mistake about it. The type of losing that Upper Darby went through made the Royals appreciate winning just that much more.
“I told the kids, ‘you might look at it as breaking a streak, but the impact you left on this program is immeasurable,'” Danenza said. “It’s something you’ll be able to hold on to for the rest of your life. As a coach, you can’t ask for anything more. It’s the reason why I do coach. Just for that one moment.”
Here’s the scoring summary from UD’s historic night.