BRANDON — A Vergennes Union High School boys’ lacrosse team with high hopes for 2013 hit host Otter Valley with a big first period on Monday and cruised to a 20-5 win in the opener for both Division II programs.
VUHS senior Joe Krayewsky tossed in five of his nine goals in the first quarter — two in the final 22.6 seconds — as the Commodores took command, 9-3.
The Otters tightened up in the second and third quarters, but had trouble sustaining an attack against a Commodore defense led by senior Ryan Crowningshield, who scooped 22 ground balls, scored once and set up two goals.
Senior Stephen Van Wyck and sophomore Bailey Dieterle also defended well in front of freshman goalie Broc Clark, who debuted with 10 saves.
Meanwhile, junior attackers J.T. O’Brien (three goals, three assists) and Tucker Babcock (two goals), Tyler Crowningshield (two goals, two assists), sophomore middie Erik Eisenhower (two goals), and senior middies Hunter Casey (goal, assist) and Chris Dayton (assist) chipped into the VUHS attack.
Krayewsky said the Commodores believe Monday’s result is the start of a good thing for a program with four wins in three years, two of them in 2012, when they began to show signs of an upswing.
“I think we’re going to be a different team this year. The guys in the offseason have been putting in a lot of work. We’ve had people play club, people work out, and practice has been a lot more focused,” Krayewsky said.
Second-year VUHS coach Ed Cook said on Monday he saw the signs of that offseason work and the Commodores’ focus on fundamentals. He believes they still need to improve their coordination on attack, on their man-up and man-down strategies, and — despite their 69 ground balls on Monday — on their technique in that department.
“It was nice to be able to pass and catch and string passes together and play lacrosse,” Cook said. “We did a lot of things really well. We obviously have things to work on.”
Cook also believes his veteran team is motivated and willing to put in the necessary effort.
“It’s great to have a senior-laden team, because I don’t have to worry about a lot of things,” he said.
Krayewsky agreed the team’s seniors remain ready to work.
“I think varsity is 12 seniors now, and have all been playing together since freshman, sophomore year,” he said. “There’s definitely chemistry going on.”
OV coach Randy Stewart saw a few things to like, notably the Otters’ improved play after the first period. But he said they did not play as smart or as well as they can, and Monday should serve as a wake-up call.
“We got beat because we got lazy. I’ve got a lot of kids that I’ve had for three or four years, and they’ve got some talent,” Stewart said. “We got beat because we didn’t make crisp passes. We got beat because we were lunging and slashing … After I had it out with them at halftime, all of sudden we started to run, and the second half was a much better half.”
Stewart is encouraged by a strong turnout this spring, one that allowed OV to field a JV team after not doing so in 2012, and that gave him enough players to sit athletes on Monday that he felt had missed too many practices.
“The best thing about the program is we have a sense of family,” Stewart said. “We stick together as a team, which is something we can build on. These younger kids, they have some talent there, they get to grow and move forward, and that’s what this program needs.”
Among his older players, Stewart said his captains — seniors Jakob Pillon, James Greeno (two assists on Monday), Brandon Hemple and Jeff Corbett — have shown leadership that will help the program grow.
“Those are four guys who believe in the program, and they are trying to push us to get better,” he said.
On Monday, VUHS took a quick 4-1 lead. O’Brien and Babcock scored one each, and Krayewsky scored two, one on a feed from O’Brien. Jakob Mulcahy one-timed in a groundball for the OV score.
OV goalie Elyas O’Classen (18 saves in a strong effort) made five early stops, but O’Brien and Krayewsky goals about a minute apart forced Stewart to call time at 5:10 with OV down, 6-1. OV responded with two strikes. Hemple set up junior Colton Pratt nicely on a two-on-one break at 4:01. VUHS fouled Pratt fouled on the play and Hemple scored on the man advantage at 3:33 to make it 6-3.
But VUHS closed the period strong. Eisenhower spun off two defenders and scored at 2:54, Krayewsky whipped home a long-range, man-up bomb at 0:22.6, and then added a solo run at 0:01.4 to make it 9-3.
OV allowed only two second-quarter goals despite a series of penalties. One came from Casey, and the other brought smiles to the VUHS side: Tyler Crowningshield’s first varsity goal was set up by brother Ryan Crowningshield in transition, and it was 11-3 at the half. Sophomore Adam Sherwin made some nice defensive plays in front of O’Classen in the period.
In the competitive third quarter, Hemple and Pratt scored for OV, while Krayewsky, Eisenhower and Cody Hutchins answered for VUHS. But the Commodores pulled away in the fourth, leaving Cook liking what he had seen.
“These guys have been together for a long time,” he said. “To be able to come out here, play this well after all the hard work we’ve put in over four years, is fantastic.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.