By: Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Saline Hornet Boys Lacrosse team moved to 5-0 this week, first traveling on Tuesday, Apr. 10 to defeat the Novi Wildcats 16-6 before returning home on Friday, Apr. 13 to take on Plymouth-Canton.
Just the day before the contest against Plymouth, junior goalkeeper Mason La Fleur, a first-year Varsity player, learned that he would be making his first career start. Senior goalkeeper Shane Winkelseth had been injured on Tuesday against Novi and the Hornets didn’t know if he would be ready to go by Friday’s game.
“Shane’s got a little bit of a strain,” said Hornets Head Coach Ryan Crawford. “Getting a definite answer on Monday, hopefully, nothing too major. He was sore on Wednesday, so really Mason didn’t know until practice Thursday. We felt good coming into it, I think he felt good. The team was behind him.”
“I was pretty nervous at first,” said La Fleur when he first learned he would be getting the start against Plymouth. “But I knew that I had a great defense in front of me to hold them back and a great offense to score quickly and often.”
After a 10-7 win last season against Plymouth, Crawford knew the program was well coached with athletes all over the field.
Plymouth jumped out to a 4-0 lead, allowing them to slow the game down to their pace before senior attacker Tanyr Krummenacher snuck a shot low that the goalie wasn’t expecting to get the Hornets on the board with 5:34 remaining in the first quarter. Plymouth would add two more goals before the end of the quarter to make it 6-1.
“I think the first quarter was kind of wake up call for the entire team,” said LaFleur. “We knew that if we wanted to win the game we were going to have to change some things fast.”
Despite the fast scoring start, neither team could get one on the board in the second quarter and the game went into halftime with Plymouth still leading 6-1. Crawford credited the second half defensive lockdown to the team starting to gel with a new leader on the defense for the first time.
“Shane’s a vocal leader,” said Crawford. “(Senior defender) Omar (Mahmud) is too, but you lose one of those and it takes a little while to get back into sync. Mason’s a good communicator, but more subdued than Shane. It took a while to get used to that.”
At halftime, Crawford said he lit into the team a little bit but the main message was simply that they were better than the half they had just played. Another aspect that Crawford touched on was ground balls.
“We were winning the draws but we just weren’t winning the ground balls,” said Crawford. “It starts with ground balls and it ends with ground balls. If you can’t scoop ground balls you’re not gonna win, period.”
In the second half, the Hornet defense continued to lock down the Plymouth attack which led to more goals for the Hornet offense once they were given the time to work.
“We’ve had the luxury of playing ahead this whole season,” said Crawford. “We panicked a little bit and tried to do it all one on one, but a team with athletes like that? You can’t do it. We just pressed, moved the ball, and found out where the slide was coming from. Once they settled down and did that it helped a lot.”
Less than 30 seconds into the second half junior midfielder George Gatecliff scored a solo goal, running from behind the net before firing a rocket. Plymouth would answer back shortly but the second half saw much more shot opportunities for the Hornets.
Plymouth would add one more goal in the third quarter while the Hornets had goals from senior attacker Davis Bruneau, Krummenacher, and senior midfielder Jack Loveland to pull within three goals at the end of the third quarter, 8-5.
In the fourth quarter, the Hornet offense began to wear down Plymouth. Krummenacher had his second goal of the evening, backing down his defender before sneaking another shot low. Four minutes later, Bruneau sniped a shot from the side and 14 seconds later added another to tie the game at 8 with 4:44 remaining.
Plymouth scored at the 3:15 mark to take back the lead as the bench erupted, but the goal was called off due to a Plymouth player being in the crease.
— Seth Kinker (@SethKinker) April 14, 2018
With 2:39 remaining in the game, senior midfielder Jake Leslie gave the Hornets their first lead of the game, starting from the left side of the field before moving right, beating his defender, and firing a shot low to give the Hornets a 9-8 lead. La Fleur got with his defense right then to prepare for what to do if Plymouth was to win the face-off.
Loveland would add a goal with 1:26 left, but with 45 seconds left Plymouth sophomore attacker Brendan Allen was left in front of the net and buried it to draw them within one.
Plymouth held for the last shot of the game but the defense held again as junior defenseman Collin Clark guarded the ball in the corner, wasting valuable time forcing Plymouth to take a rushed shot that La Fleur saved as the horn sounded for the 10-8 comeback win.
Crawford credited the second half comeback to his goalkeeper and patience.
“Mason made some huge saves going into halftime and picked up right where he left off to start the third,” said Crawford. “And I think that just breeds confidence you know? A lot of credit to him and just patience on offense. We knew where the slides were coming from, we just couldn’t hit the pass in the first half.”
As the second half progressed and the team kept scoring the Hornet sideline got louder and louder, even in timeouts the yelling echoed around the stadium.
“The loudness is the kids,” said Crawford. “I don’t know what they’re ever saying but we have great leadership, Jack Toor, and Jake Leslie, they’re awesome, they just get ‘em going.”
After breezing through their first four games, the Hornets got their first taste of adversity and emerged with a win. After the game, Crawford said that they just discussed small things.
“We’re never out of it,” said Crawford. “We have a very good defense, two good goalies, and we can score goals against anybody. If you believe that, put your nose down, are willing to go get those ground balls, and get dirty a little bit, you’re gonna win against good teams. And that’s what we did here tonight, no matter how big the deficit apparently.”
Bruneau led the team with three goals, Krummenacher and Loveland added two apiece to lead the Hornets on offense. Clark led the defense with four ground balls while senior midfielder Robert Borer added three ground balls. La Fleur picked up a win in his first Varsity start and finished with seven saves.