May 29, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Little glory or fame is found on the defensive side of the ball in any sport, and lacrosse is no exception. Even though defenders work as much as anyone else, their labor is not reflected on the scoreboard, or is talked about with the same breathless excitement as feats on the other side of the field.
Yet sometimes a defense plays so well that its contributions cannot be ignored, and Fayetteville-Manlius provided a textbook example of this during Wednesday afternoon’s 6-4 victory over Section IV champion Corning in the Class A regional final at Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium.
Senior captain Jake Pulver, joined by Matt Stegemann and Gabe Neils, plus Jeff Martin, James Farrell and John Stone, along with a full complement of midfielders, had to spend large amounts of time concentrating on its own end against a Corning side determined to dictate the game’s tempo.
For the most part, they succeeded, limiting the Hawks to two goals in each half and allowing the Hornets to protect its lead even though it did not score a goal in the last 28-plus minutes of the game.
“Our defense played great,” said Pulver. “We hunkered down when the pressure was on us.”
F-M head coach Chris Kenneally said his team’s struggles on the attack, combined with turnovers, made things anxious, but that the defense made up for that anxiety to carry the team to victory.
Going in, part of the concern for F-M was how it would retain its focus and drive in the wake of ending its 21-year Section III title drought in that dramatic 12-11 win over West Genesee at the Carrier Dome four days earlier.
Kenneally said he wanted his players to enjoy the victory until Sunday, and then turn their focus to Corning. Pulver said that, scouting the Hawks, he saw that it would not be an easy match-up.
“They (Corning) are a bunch of tough kids that will get in your face,” he said.
That defense had to work right away, since Corning won the game’s first four face-offs. But it didn’t translate into success for the Hawks, who saw John Cote hit on back-to-back goals early in the first quarter to give F-M a lead it would not relinquish.
It looked like the Hornets would run away early, as Jack Wilson scored once and assisted on Luke Krizman’s goal to make it 4-1 by the end of the opening period. And after Corning cut the margin to 4-2, Wilson converted again and Casey Green scored, too.
No one could have imagined that Green’s goal would be the Hornets’ last of the day, just as he had netted the final goal in the last seconds of the sectional final.
Up 6-2 at halftime, F-M barely gained possession in the third quarter. Corning was content to pass it around as much as possible, waiting for just the right shot and, at the same time, preventing the Hornets from putting the game out of reach.
That did lead to goals by Andrew Buck and Chris VanDemark, which cut F-M’s lead in half, but for the game’s last 16-plus minutes, the Hawks, like the Hornets, would come up dry.
All through the latter part of the third period and the entire fourth quarter, Corning probed and looked for open shots. Every time, Wilson, Stegemann and Neils, aided by the midfielders, intercepted passes, blocked shot attempts or forced turnovers. They were so effective that F-M goalie Brian Charlamb only had to make four saves.
And now F-M waited to see who it would play next Wednesday in the state semifinals, either Fairport (Section V) or Orchard Park (Section VI), who face off in Saturday’s Far West Regional final.
The week of rest, said Kenneally, will give his team a chance to heal up, recuperate and practice more to work on the things needed to get those two more victories needed for the first state title in program history.
“We have to play with some sense of composure and purpose, as well as intensity,” he said.