May 15, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Plenty of happiness was seen – and heard – from the Fayetteville-Manlius boys lacrosse team after it defeated West Genesee 9-7 Tuesday night to complete an undefeated regular season and lock up the top seed in the Section III Class A playoffs.
Yet both sides could leave the game feeling some sense of satisfaction – the Hornets because it again turned back its long-time nemesis and dominated the first half on both ends of the field, the Wildcats because it turned a potential rout into a nail-biter by the final horn.
F-M senior forward Kevin Lux, who had two goals and one assist, said it was his team’s goal, at the start of the season, to go 16-0. They started on that quest on April 2 by going to Camillus and beating West Genesee 6-4 amid frigid, wintry conditions.
Exactly six weeks later, the two sides were together again, but the Wildcats were now at full strength, having seen top defender Garrett Waldron and star forward Zach Anderson return from injuries that kept them out most of the season, including the first F-M encounter.
It was Waldron’s assignment to cover Lux, and he mostly did a solid job against the Hornets’ all-time leading goal scorer. But Lux struck the game’s first blow when he beat Waldron one-on-one and scored 2:19 into the first quarter.
Though Sean Niechcial tied it less than a minute later, it would be WG’s last goal until early in the second quarter, by which time F-M had seized total command.
The Hornets’ defense set a physical tone. Jake Pulver, Josh Pulver, Ben Jeffery and the rest of F-M’s back line hit the Wildcats’ midfielders and forwards whenever they got near the net, causing frustration and turnovers.
“We like to be aggressive and get on their hands,” said Josh Pulver.
As that went on, F-M’s attack was just as assertive, finding weak spots in WG’s trademark man-to-man pressure as it built a 4-1 lead by the end of the first quarter and doubled that advantage to 8-2 by halftime.
According to Lux, “we found holes in the defense and we shot really well.” And he didn’t just mean himself, either, as Clay Arnold recorded a first-half hat trick, with Lux and Jack Wilson each scoring twice.
Wildcats head coach Mike Messere said his team’s problem was simple to diagnose.
“We just backed off at the beginning and didn’t go full-out,” he said. “That was why we struggled early in the season.”
WG found itself trailing 9-2 after Ryan DaRin’s goal early in the second half. Remarkably, the Hornets would not score again as the Wildcats’ defense made subtle adjustments and closed off all the gaps, and as a result, said Kenneally, it was F-M that turned cautious, protecting its lead instead of staying in attack mode.
Now it was a question of whether WG could make it all the way back. Ted Glesener and Ryan St. Croix scored to cut the margin to five, and when Tom Pritchard converted late in the third quarter, that made it 9-5 with a full period left.
F-M possessed the ball for long stretches of the fourth quarter without finding the net. But again, the defense came up big whenever the Wildcats tried to inch closer, Brian Bedell earning some clutch saves (he finished with 10) that burned up precious minutes.
WG didn’t get on the board in the final period until Pritchard scored his second goal with 2:45 left. Brady Hoose added a goal in the final minute and the Wildcats got the ball back, but F-M made one more defensive stop and ran out the remaining clock.
Kenneally said the break between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs will be spent dealing with all aspects of his team’s game.
“We’ll address our weaknesses,” he said. “We’ve got to go back to our normal mode, and not worry about the scoreboard.”
At least on this night, the scoreboard showed F-M in front, just like the other 15 times the Hornets have taken the field.