MIDDLEBURY — In a Saturday game between the two boys’ lacrosse programs that between them won every state championship between 1993 and 2003, visiting Woodstock posted what has been a rare win in recent years over Middlebury, 8-2, at Middlebury College’s Alumni Stadium.
Play bore little resemblance to some of the duels of a decade ago between the Tigers and Wasps — balls hit the ground or rolled out of bounds far more often than planned as turnovers plagued both teams.
Woodstock came in at 0-2 after losses to Rutland (9-7) and Champlain Valley (15-2), while a young Tiger team hit hard by graduation was playing its first game after being confined to practicing in Brush Arena by the recent rainy weather. But ultimately the Wasps got more going offensively than the Tigers, earning a 30-14 edge in attempted shots.
Coach Jono Chapin knows this will be a building year, but said on top of that circumstances were not in his team’s favor on Saturday. The Wasps had those two games under their belt, while on top of the Tigers’ inexperience and limited outdoor practice time, they were missing players because of spring break.
“We were definitely rough as far as game sense. Definitely as far as passing and catching we’ve got a little ways to go. It’s tough to be in that Memorial Sports Center, given the weather conditions, and then come outside,” he said. “I just think it was a rough, raw level of lacrosse for us, but we have a chance to go ahead and build on it.”
The Tiger defense did hold up. Sophomores Dillon Robinson and Steel White both defended and cleared well — even with a couple miscues — while senior Derek Swinhart took care of business out front. Freshman goalies Cody Mannigan (five saves, three goals-against in the first half) and Garth Buck (nine saves, five goals against in the second) also held their own.
“The defense in many respects (played well), with the exception of clearing. We gave up some gimme goals there,” Chapin said.
Woodstock scored twice in the first period. Noah Carvalho came out from behind on the right side and found the near corner at 5:41, and Sean Bjornessen picked off a defender’s pass intended for Mannigan and tucked it into the open goal at 3:28.
The Tigers put their first shot on Wasp goalie Tyler Hogstrom early in the second quarter, a long-range bid by senior attacker Justin Combs that Hogstrom snared. Woodstock made it 3-0 at 6:10, when Matteo Bjornessen cut through the slot and found the lower right corner.
Then Tiger senior middie Ben Doria picked up the ball on the draw, ran down the left side and fed sophomore attacker Max Hare for the doorstep conversion, and just seconds later it was 3-1. Late in the quarter, the Tigers survived two penalties (of their eight, a total that did not please Chapin), in part because Robinson blocked a shot in the final seconds, and that score stood at the half.
The Tigers had a chance to make it a one-goal game when the Wasps took one of their six penalties early in the second half, but immediately threw a pass away. Only a fine defensive play by White prevented a man-down goal at the other end.
Buck made an outstanding save at 9:30, picking a point-blank shot out of the air, but then threw an errant pass that led to a Jason LaPan goal at 9:17 that made it 4-1.
Tiger junior middie Bryan Ashley-Selleck bounced a 25-foot shot home at 8:01, but the Wasps won the draw and Carvalho quickly converted at 7:51. At 2:34, Alex Melville cashed in a behind-the-net feed, and it was 6-2 after three.
Despite a couple more fine saves from Buck, Carvalho added two more goals in the fourth quarter to create the final score.
Chapin said the rest of a tough Division I schedule awaits his inexperienced team, and the most important thing for the Tigers to do is to realize their priority is to get better throughout the season.
“It’s just going to be keeping the attitudes of these guys in the right direction, and it’s going to be about improving and learning,” he said. “We’re just going to have to keep the focus in the right place and recognize it’s about improvement and the little things, little successes.”