Ocean City boys lacrosse team makes big statement
OCEAN CITY — The Ocean City boys lacrosse team had heard all week about how good rival Mainland was, how this was the first time in school history that the Mustangs had started 6-0. They heard about Mainland's high-powered offense that came into Friday's game at the Tennessee Avenue Fields averaging nearly 17 goals per game.
The Red Raiders felt it was time to send a little reminder to the rest of the Cape-Atlantic League that if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.
Ocean City has been one of the top teams in the league the last few years and won a share of the CAL title last season. Upstart Mainland was out to prove it could be one of the top contenders this year, and there was a definite buzz in the air right from the start.
After the Red Raiders dominated in a 10-5 victory, however, Ocean City players felt the statement they wanted to make had been made.
"I think this game is going to make a statement for us. Hopefully, the rest of the CAL finally respects us, but we're just focusing on continuing to get better and keep building," said Tommy Cusack, a senior attacker for Ocean City who led the Red Raiders with four goals.
"It was a good game. My defense was in front of me. They took a lot of shots, and I was there to back up the defense. The defense was there to get rebounds, and the offense was scoring. It was really a team win," said Ocean City junior goalie Mark Kolmer, who finished with 22 saves. "Mainland brings out something different in you when you go to Ocean City. Coach (LaTorre) was telling us to keep calm, keep all our comments for the game day and make sure that we performed on game day so that we could back up (any talk)."
The Red Raiders (6-1) certainly did back it up, limiting Mainland (6-1) to just one goal in the first half while taking a 3-1 lead into the break on a pair of goals by Cusack and an early goal from Marty Cattie. The defense of Jack Stoerrle, Dan Walsh and Mitch Roza completely shut down Mainland's explosive offensive unit, and throughout the first half continued to scoop up loose balls to give the ball back to the Red Raiders' patient offense.
"Coach (Jason LaTorre) was stressing that a lot of Mainland's offense comes in transition and that they like to play fast, so if we could hold the ball longer that would be less time they would have, and a shorter amount than they'd like to have it, so we were playing for possession today," Cusack said.
"Like Tommy said, they like to transition the ball and having double-man, so we had to always pay attention to our man and recognize when their guys came open. We switched between man and zone (defense) to try to get them off guard and get them off whatever they were going for, and when we got the chance we would go into zone," Stoerrle said. "Everyone, as a team in general, played all together, and that's how we need to continue to play."
The teams traded goals throughout the third quarter, as Ocean City defender Harry Pfeifle made a nifty move to score with 7:54 left to give the Red Raiders a 5-2 lead before Mainland answered with a goal by Ethan Irizarry to make it 5-3. But Ocean City scored four straight unanswered goals to push the lead to 9-3 and blow the game wide open.
Vincent Giunta scored for Mainland with 2:25 left in the game to make it 10-4 and Teddy Bergman added a goal 17 seconds later, but Ocean City's defense clamped down in the final two minutes.
"Our defense has really good chemistry. We've been together for two years now, and we just work really hard in practice," Kolmer said. "We worked really hard on transitions so that we could stop the way they like to play. We packed it in and got the 'W.'"
"It's always a rivalry game against Mainland and we always get all hyped up for it. We played great today," Cusack said. "So many different people were making plays and we kept running down on them. Mainland was kind of talking trash a little bit before the game, but we kept quiet and just did what we had to do."
Contact Dave O'Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays