Wahconah's early lead doesn't hold up in boys lacrosse playoff loss to Blackstone Valley Tech
DALTON — Everything was going swimmingly for the Wahconah boys lacrosse team through 12 minutes on Friday. Unfortunately for the Warriors, lacrosse is a 48-minute game.
The No. 2 team in the Central/Western Mass. Division III tournament came out of the gates flying, putting up seven goals on No. 7 Blackstone Valley Tech in the first period to take a five-goal lead. From there, though, the offense cooled, while the Beavers stuck with their game plan and eventually dug all the way out of that hole for an 11-10 win on hostile ground.
"At halftime, we saw we were down by a lot. Coach just told us to believe in ourselves," Blackstone's Andrew Vasile (5 goals) said, "and we started to believe in ourselves, we started to find a groove. It's insane."
The Beavers trailed 9-5 going into the final stanza Friday. The momentum, though, shifted hard once play resumed. Blackstone Valley got a goal back through Vasile at the 10-minute, 12-second mark in the period, and with 5:26 left, Brady Murray scored on an unassisted effort to make it 9-8. Wahconah (17-2) finally ended its lengthy goal drought — the team's prior goal was at the 7:33 mark in the second quarter — when Billy O'Neill took a pass from Dart Jaggi and tucked it in to make it a two-goal game. That strike, though, couldn't halt the Beavers.
Half a minute after O'Neill's strike, Luke Carey handled a pass from Griffin DiAntonio in a man-up situation, and whipped a shot top shelf to cut the deficit to one again. Thirty seconds later, and Vasile scored his fifth and final goal of the game to tie the contest for the first time since it was 0-0.
With the game now evenly in the balance, Wahconah took another penalty with 1:34 left. Vasile had an initial shot saved by Dom Orlandi (11 saves), but the Beavers stuck with it, and eventually Trever Harper fed Jack Kinsella on the right wing, and from a tight angle Kinsella put everything behind his shot that wound up in the back of the net.
"Just keep playing our hardest," Vasile said of the message going into the fourth. "We played our hardest the whole game, and as we got closer and closer, we just started believing more and more in ourselves."
Wahconah got the final opportunity to have a say on the game, and in a man-up situation the Warriors earned one last clean shot on goal, but BVT goalie Adam Kaminski-Miller made the last of his seven saves on the night to secure his team the victory.
"Honestly, our confidence got the better of us," Wahconah coach Joe O'Neill said. "We were rolling to start with, everything was going well, and then we thought we didn't have to go and stay in our system."
Coach O'Neill's assessment was evident. After a two-week layoff, the Warriors showed no initial signs of rust when Ernie Lampron struck on a feed from Matt Mathers just over a minute in. Tim Clayton (2 goals) made it 3-0 when he scooped up a ground ball off a bad clearance and bounced a shot in. Vasile got his team on the board at the 5-minute mark of the first, but Wahconah responded with four unanswered in a two-minute span, capped by a goal from Billy O'Neill (2 goals), to make it 7-1. The Beavers scored once more in the quarter, but still trailed 7-2.
The offense cooled down from there. Wahconah got a pair of goals in the second, both from Dart Jaggi (4 goals). His second, though, came with 7:33 left before half. Wahconah didn't score again until Billy O'Neill's strike with 5:10 to go in the game.
"That was some of the best second-half defensive play we've had," BVT coach Andrew Barksdale said. "We're very strong defensively, and we were finally able to stop them, do what we needed to do to get the ball back.
"They've had their ups and downs on offense, but when we are all together, we are a solid team."
One thing that certainly didn't help Wahconah in the game was the loss of Trey Massaro in the third quarter. The long-stick midfielder went down with 5:01 left in the third, and his defensive presence and his impact on face-offs was felt by coach O'Neill.
"Losing Trey, that definitely hurt," Joe O'Neill said. "That hurt us on the face-offs. ... We just didn't — ballhandling hurt us, really."
The loss will sting for a while, but even as he embraced his players one last time, Joe O'Neill talked about the impact that this year's team had.
"It was a great year. We set a new standard for Wahconah lacrosse," the first-year head man said.
With the win, BVT advances to its first-ever Central/West semifinal. The Beavers will play St. Bernard's in the semifinal on a date and time to be announced.
BVT 2 2 1 6 — 11
Wahconah 7 2 0 1 — 10
Goals — BVT (Andrew Vasile 5, Luke Carey 2, Brady Murray 2, Griffin DiAntonio, Jack Kinsella), W (Dart Jaggi 4, Tim Clayton 2, Billy O'Neill 2, Matt Mathers, Ernie Lampron).
Assists — BVT (Trever Harper 2, Carey 2, DiAntonio), W (Mathers 3, O'Neill 2, Jaggi, Clayton, Dayton Kozlowski).
Saves — BVT (Adam Kaminski-Miller 7), W (Dom Orlandi 11).
Geoff Smith can be reached at email@example.com, @GSmith_Eagle on Twitter and 413-496-6254.
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