VERGENNES — On Monday, for the first time since 2010 the members of the Vergennes Union High School boys’ lacrosse team walked off the field with a victory.
The Commodores led a shorthanded visiting Otter Valley team at the half, 3-0, and then erupted for eight third-quarter goals in a 12-1 victory in their season opener.
Junior attackman Joe Krayewsky sparked VUHS with eight goals, but said the win was the product of a team-wide effort to bounce back from two seasons of frustration: VUHS was 1-14 in 2010 before 2011’s winless campaign.
On Monday, the Commodores defended, cleared the ball, and transitioned up the field effectively. And eventually they wore down an Otter defense that also showed determination despite missing two starters for medical reasons.
Krayewsky said Monday’s success began with the Commodores’ will to improve in 2012.
“We came together at the beginning of the year and we sat down as a team and we said, ‘Look, we’re sick of losing. It’s not good. We want to turn the program around,’” Krayewsky said. “Everyone is dedicated this year. Everyone knows what is his responsibility. We can’t play as a team unless everybody gives his all. Everyone has stepped up and done what the coaches have asked for.”
First-year coach Ed Cook said the work began before spring practices. Krayewsky played club lacrosse, and many Commodores attended voluntary winter workouts.
“It really shows the offseason work the guys have been putting in,” Cook said.
Meanwhile, the Otters fell to 0-3, with their other two losses coming last week to Division I teams Rutland and Woodstock. They played on Monday without two starting defenders, including Karl Bautista, one of the team’s two seniors.
On Monday, freshman Adam Sherwin and sophomore midfielder Doug Friend joined starting senior defender Rob Fjeld in the back for Coach Randy Stewart’s team. That unit and junior goalie Elyas O’Classen (12 saves) held VUHS at bay until the third quarter.
Junior middie Jeff Corbett also scored OV’s first goal of the season and hit the post twice as he gave the Otters an offensive spark.
Given that he had to juggle the lineup and was playing an improved VUHS team, Stewart saw progress on Monday. For example, draw controls were even at 7-7, and the Otters held their own on ground balls.
“We’re young. We’re building. Each day we get a little better. I’ve seen improvement from our first game to this game,” Stewart said. “I’m excited about where this program seems to be headed.”
Still, with one goal in three games, offense is an issue.
“We need to start shooting more, and it’s something I impress on the boys all the time,” Stewart said. “They need to understand just put the ball on the cage and things happen.”
The Otters also have more trouble passing and catching in game conditions than they do in warm-up, something Stewart attributes to their lack of experience.
“I expect mistakes here and there. Just because you practice really well it doesn’t always translate to a game. When the pressure’s on it’s a totally different animal,” Stewart said.
The Otters held VUHS off in the first period and did test junior Commodore goalie Jake Thompson early, but Thompson (eight saves) denied junior middie Beau Buxton. Late in the period O’Classen stopped Krayewsky and sophomore attacker J.T. O’Brien, but at 1:04 Krayewsky finally got past an OV defender for a good look and made it 1-0 after one period.
O’Classen made three saves in the second quarter, including a point-blank stop on sophomore attacker Tucker Babcock, but Krayewsky scored once early in the period and once late in the period to make it 3-0 at the half. Midway through the quarter, Corbett quick-sticked an angled shot past Thompson, but it hit the inside of the left post and bounced out, and OV’s first goal of 2012 had to wait.
In the third quarter, the Commodores’ edge in possession finally paid off. Cook noted as well as creating offense, it also made life easier for his starting defense of seniors Steven Sickles and J.J. Lafountain and junior Ryan Crowningshield.
“Our goalie played a really great game, but our defense really stepped in there and didn’t allow them to get shots on goal,” he said. “(And) our clears were much better. We really limited their possession time. We had the ball in their end 60 to 70 percent of the game.”
Eight seconds into the second half, O’Brien set up a Krayewsky goal with VUHS playing a man up. That score triggered a 4-0 run in the first 3:02 of the half. Krayewsky scored at 10:59, O’Brien converted at 10:19, and Krayewsky tossed in a long-range bomb at 8:58 to make it 7-0.
Later in the quarter, O’Brien and junior middie Jordan Grant had added goals, and Krayewsky converted feeds from Grant and junior middie Isaac Bigelow. VUHS tacked on one fourth-quarter goal: junior middie Hunter Casey scored, with sophomore middie Cody Hutchins assisting.
With about 10 seconds left, Corbett broke up a play at midfield, raced toward the VUHS goal and bounced a low shot home to the delight of the OV bench.
Stewart said that play showed his team’s spirit.
“We’ll just continue to move forward and fight on,” he said.
Cook said Monday’s result would give the Commodores a shot in the arm.
“Our guys have some confidence now,” he said. “I look forward to the rest of the season.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.