Tiger boys' lax shows spark in 8-3 loss
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School boys’ lacrosse team showed flashes of promise in Saturday’s season opener against Woodstock, but the visiting Wasps carried an edge in play and took advantage of Tiger miscues to earn an 8-3 win.
Woodstock improved to 2-0. The Wasps earlier defeated Rutland, 10-4, and had a couple scrimmages under their belts.
Tiger coach Jono Chapin, entering his 20th season leading the program, praised the Wasps, but said his still-young team can — and will — play better than the group that managed just one win in 2010.
“Woodstock is a solid team. We just didn’t play near to where our potential is,” Chapin said. “And I’ll also say … we’re going to see a learning curve that is much sharper. It’s not going to be a slow progression of getting better. We’re going to be a lot better.”
Certainly, the Tiger defense and goaltending for the most part fared well. Second-half goalie Garth Buck looked solid, making nine saves. Junior defender Dillon Robinson had the best day among the Tigers’ four-man defensive rotation, forcing several turnovers, while senior Patrick Fifield and juniors Steel White and Wren Hobbs also held their own.
Two Wasp goals came with the Tigers a man down after penalties, and three came after turnovers left attackers alone out front, meaning only three Wasp scores coming from even-up, settled situations.
“I think actually our defense is our strength,” Chapin said.
Chapin added that he expects the Tigers to sharpen the attack, particularly their decision-making.
“I just didn’t think (we had the right) type of shot selection, and the guys were forcing the feed,” he said.
Woodstock took a 1-0 lead with a man-up goal at 10:07 of the first period. Hunter Schmell scored after the Tigers failed to clear after first-half goalie Cody Mannigan (three saves) denied Jordan Fields.
The Tigers took another penalty later in the quarter, and just as time expired on the infraction threw the ball to a wide-open Nico Schmell, who converted to make it 2-0.
The Tigers then had their best stretch of the game late in the first and early in the second quarters, when Wasp goalie Ben Orr (eight saves) made close-range stops on Tiger senior attacker Nick Bruch and junior middie Sawyer McLaughlin.
Then MUHS broke through at 0:17 of the first, when McLaughlin found Bruch cutting out front from the left side, and Bruch hit the lower left corner.
The Tiger momentum carried over into the second period, when junior attacker Andrew Myhre and Bruch had early bids and Orr made the save of the game, denying cutting junior attacker Max Hare from point-blank range on a feed from Myhre.
Chapin said the Tigers were playing well at that point, but the Wasps then did a better job of converting their chances; he wondered what might have happened in that stretch if the Tigers had been able to dent Orr and tie the game or take the lead.
“When they countered … it took a little bit of air out of us. We just didn’t get some of those goals to drop,” he said.
Woodstock called for time at 9:18 to regroup, and the momentum swung back to the Wasps. At 7:11, Andrew Kimball swept in from the left and scored to the short side, and at 5:01 Nico Schmell cashed in on another clearance miscue to make it 4-1. At 3:58, Wasp middie Nico Brands went solo to extend the lead, and it was 5-1 at the half.
The Tigers cut it to 5-2 at 9:25 of the third, when Hare converted a Myhre feed, but less than a minute later Kimball netted a give-and-go feed from Nico Schmell to restore the four-goal lead.
It remained 6-2 entering the fourth, as Buck stopped both Hunter and Nico Schmell, and Orr denied Myhre from his doorstep late in the period.
The Tigers cut the lead to three at 9:03 of the fourth when Mitchell Clarke netted a behind-the-net feed from Christian Higgins, but again the Wasps answered within a minute: At 8:14 Nico Schmell picked off a Buck clear and broke in alone.
Buck made several stops in the period, but Kimball added a man-up goal at 3:35 for the final score. Orr, meanwhile, had one more act of robbery left to make: He got his foot on Derek Hathaway’s five-foot shot in the final minute.
“The goalie, give him credit, he probably saved one or two,” Chapin said.
The Wasps earned edges of 27-19 in shots at goal and 30-25 in ground balls. The fact the Tigers were flagged eight times to four for the Wasps created a handicap.
“Penalties started to be a factor,” Chapin said. “It’s hard to play offense when you’re a man down.”
Still, Chapin saw positives, and believes there will be more to come.
“The juniors that we have, they are gelling well together,” he said. “And that’s the core of our team, with 15 guys, so I’m pretty optimistic about how we’ll progress.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.