Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Last Saturday, the Rocky River boys lacrosse team had a four-goal lead turn into a 6-5 loss to St. Francis DeSales. On Tuesday night, head coach Steve Anderson was anxious to see how his team would bounce back against visiting Bay.
It didn’t take long for Anderson to find out.
The Pirates outshot the Rockets, 14-1, in the first quarter on their way to a 5-0 lead. They withstood two Bay rallies and came away with a 13-7 win to move to 4-1 on the season.
“I think in the last game, we had a letdown for three quarters,” Anderson said. “That was a lesson learned for us. We were up by four goals and let them back into the game. They have a good team too, but we definitely didn’t play our best game.
“So far, we’ve learned from that. Tonight, we knew we had to get after it right from the start and we did,” he added.
Bay, which was coming off a 14-2 win over Holy Name, had the ball early and patiently looked for openings in the River defense. But once the Pirates regained possession, the goals came quickly.
With 8:56 left in the first, senior attacker Matt Mehrige scored off an assist from junior line mate Bobby Perez. Less than a minute later, sophomore Evan Jacob scored an unassisted goal for a 2-0 River lead. Senior midfielder Ty Daugstrup scored an unassisted goal of his own at the 7:21 mark, and the Pirates were off and running.
Perez later scored off an assist from senior Michael Henry. He then got his second assist of the game on Daugstrups’s second goal in a man-up situation with 16.5 seconds left to give the home team a 5-0 lead.
The Rockets managed to regroup a bit in the second quarter, outscoring River 3-1 in the first five minutes to make it a 6-3 game. The Rockets scored the first two goals of the period, the first coming from sophomore Henri James off a pass from senior Mitch Voll. The second came from Volll after he intercepted a Pirate outlet pass.
Both goal came in the first two minutes, with river answering on an unassisted goal from senior Andreas Tjotjos. Another assist from Voll, this time to Jacob Macmillan, made the score 6-3 with 7:09 left in the half, prompting Anderson to call timeout.
River responded with two unassisted goals from Henry in a one-minute span. That made the score 8-3 at halftime, with the Pirates holding a commanding 22-7 shots on goal advantage.
“We spotted them five goals in the first, but in the second quarter we came back a bit,” said Bay head coach Ryan Smith. “Our third quarter was a little soft. We went to a zone, and that didn’t work out so well.
“We had some good momentum going in the fourth, but by then it was too late,” he added.
Against the Rocket zone, River scored three goals in the first three minutes of the second half. Daugstrup opened things up with a hat trick goal off an Eric Sperli assist with just over a minute gone in the quarter.
A goal by Perez on a Henry assist and an unassisted goal off the stick of Mehrige had the Pirates up 11-3 with 9:13 still to play in the third.
Play in the final six-plus minutes of the quarter was slowed by six penalties, but River still managed to get off 15 shots compared to the Rockets’ five. Perez opened the fourth quarter with his own hat trick goal 13 seconds in off an assist from Bennet Kellogg, and River had a comfortable 12-3 lead.
A pair of goals from junior Steve Burns and two more from Voll - giving him the hat trick for the night - closed the gap. Bay outscored River 4-2 in the quarter and outshot the Pirates 7-4, but it was too little, too late.
“In all, it was a pretty good effort except for parts of two quarters,” Smith said. “We only have three seniors out of 28 players on our roster, so we’re running a lot of sophomores and juniors out there. We’ve just been inconsistent, like today. If we could string four good quarters together, maybe we’re closer than six goals and taking the game.
“Tonight, we were looking for better ground balls in transition as well as better fundamentals passing and catching. We gave them a lot of giveaways on unforced errors, though, and you can’t do that against River,” Smith said.
Bay’s rookie goalie, junior P.J. Nye, had 10 saves to match his River counterpart, junior Aaron Blossey. Nye was under fire all night as River finished with a 41-19 shots on goal advantage.
“I give Bay credit. They have some nice offensive players,” Anderson said. “Our defense, I think, fell asleep a little bit, but I give Bay credit for taking advantage.
“This early part of the season, we’re changing up our lines here and there,” said Anderson, who had some rookie players of his own. “I’m trying to find the right personnel combinations. There are definitely some new faces out there for us and they’re learning the system.”
Anderson, however, felt his newcomers were making progress just five games into the season.
“With learning the system comes the opportunity to see who can step up into certain roles,” he said. “Sometimes, that takes a little bit of time, especially early in the season. Really, I’m observing, mixing and matching, and seeing who has confidence, who’s going to work hard to fill those roles.”
“With the veterans that we have, they know the expectations of them and the team. There’s less of setting the tone as there has been in the past. They know what is expected, and they know what our goals are. Those new guys who come up through the system know that they need to have their A game, and that there’s no resting.
“It’s a lot of work, but that work has paid off in the past and it continues to do so. We’ll have letdowns here and there. It’s just a matter of character. I want to see how we’re going to bounce back, whether it’s in the middle of the game or the middle of the season.
“Hopefully, because our system is very strong, we’ll continue to move in the right direction,” he concluded.