May 15, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Now the West Genesee and Fayetteville-Manlius boys lacrosse teams stand on even terms in 2014, both of them knowing that it can’t stay that way and one of them – perhaps – will end up on top of the Section III Class A ranks.
That was the Wildcats’ takeaway from last Monday night’s 9-6 defeat to the Hornets, a team it beat 10-6 back on April 3, but which had improved on all fronts in the six weeks since that initial encounter.
Both teams entered the game at close to full strength, with WG’s Nick Mellen making his first start in weeks on the defensive side, honed in on containing F-M’s leading offensive threat, Jack Wilson.
All of the aspects of F-M’s growth were on display in this game, and it started at the center X, where in that first meeting the Wildcats largely controlled the face-offs and kept the Hornets from possession time.
Back then, the Hornets’ face-off man, Pat Quinlan, was just returning to the lacrosse field after a successful wrestling campaign in the winter that included state and national tournament appearances. Now, though, Quinlan had honed his face-off skills and was turning into a critical weapon for F-M.
Quinlan got the ball enough times to help the Hornets stay on even terms with WG, even when the shots weren’t finding the net. In fact, neither side gained any lead larger than one goal during the first three quarters.
Twice in the opening period, Ryan McDonald scored for the Wildcats, but each time John Cote answered, keeping the game at 2-2. Both teams went in front in the second quarter, but soon surrendered those advantages, and it was 4-4 at halftime, Luke Krizman and Colton Oliver scoring for F-M to answer tallies from David Procopio and Tyler Brown.
As this was going on, F-M’s defense, anchored by Jake Pulver, Matt Stegemann and Gabe Nells, applied intense man-to-man pressure, never letting WG’s attackers get comfortable, and when they were needed, goalie Matt Charlamb made stops, finishing with eight saves.
The back-and-forth battle continued in the third quarter. Brown and Will Northrop put in goals that gave WG one-goal leads. Both times, F-M pulled back even, goals by Dylan Taylor-Wolford and Casey Greene helping the game go to the final period at 6-6.
All of the Hornets’ disparate pieces fit together in the fourth quarter. Quinlan managed to win all four face-offs, and the first one was a real scramble, something that WG head coach Mike Messere would say was a turning point.
As the F-M defense shut the Wildcats down, the Hornets finally took charge. Cote netted his third goal exactly one minute into the final period. Barely two minutes later, Alex Leuze delivered a goal from the point, and with 5:37 to play, Erik Badger drilled a hard shot past Koziol, establishing F-M’s final margin.
Even with the loss, WG knew it could regain lots of confidence if it prevailed in the grass and mud of Holland Stadium against Auburn two nights later.
Instead, though, the Maroons played a brilliant second half and nearly turned the game into a runaway, while the Wildcats’ rally fell just short as, by an 11-9 margin, it dropped its first decision to the Maroons in six years.
A solid start had WG in front, 2-1, but during the game’s middle stages the Wildcats’ normally stout defense struggled – and Auburn took full advantage, roaring to a 5-3 lead by halftime and, in the third quarter, extending its lead to 9-4.
Worse yet, the Wildcats’ deficit grew to 11-5 at one point in the fourth quarter. To its credit, WG surged back in the final minutes, getting four straight goals, but finding the deficit too much to overcome.
Only Brown and Mike Fletcher scored twice, with McDonald adding a goal and two assists. Procopio, Northrop, Matt Mline and Collin Kobuszewski earned single goals. Brian Cunningham, with a three-goal hat trick, and Dan Entenmann, with two goals and three assists, led the Maroons’ attack.
All of this could be forgiven if the Wildcats, the no. 2 seed in the sectional Class A tournament, won it all again.
WG faces no. 7 seed Liverpool in next Tuesday night’s quarterfinal, with the semifinal Thursday at Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium against either C-NS or Baldwinsville, and the final May 24 at noon at the Carrier Dome.