East Lyme boys can’t get their offense going after injury to key attack
East Lyme — Greg Swenson, one of the backbones of the East Lyme High School boys' lacrosse program, tried to digest a tough Class M first-round loss Wednesday.
The defeat went down about as well as a year-old fruitcake.
Second-seeded East Lyme's season ended with a 7-5 loss to No. 18 Avon. The Vikings had state title aspirations, making the defeat even harder to swallow.
"We had a really good group of kids," said Swenson, a senior goalie. "I thought we'd go pretty far. I guess it was Avon's day. It wasn't our day.
"Everyone is beatable. It doesn't matter what seed you are. If you play hard and play tough, you'll win the game. Unfortunately, we weren't the team to come out on top."
East Lyme struggled offensively playing without senior Erik Aarsand, a potent scorer, who broke his collarbone in practice Saturday.
The Vikings (15-4) never established any consistent rhythm and never led, trailing 4-2 at halftime and 7-3 in the fourth quarter before scoring two late goals. Senior Griffin Woods and junior Ethan Opsahl each scored two goals and junior Evan Opsahl added one.
"We had a significant injury happen this weekend with one of our attack," East Lyme coach Gary Wight said. "So that was tough to come to back from. But we have some other guys to fill in the spots. But it's probably weighing on the guys in the back of their minds that's something we don't have. He's one of our dynamic attack."
Swenson added: "It just seemed like we couldn't really click as well as we're used to."
Credit Avon's aggressive defense for limiting quality chances and goalie Sean Glover for making several impressive saves. The Falcons slowed down the pace of the game to suit their style and controlled ground balls. Junior Jake Corrigan provided the offensive spark, scoring four goals.
"We're not a high-powered offense, so we're looking to really take care of possession," Avon coach Jeff Lombardo said. "I think we did a good job of that."
As the Vikings have done just about all season, they started slow. There's a bigger price to pay when that happens in a state tournament game against a quality opponent.
Avon scored on its first possession on Tyler Gordon's goal just 1 minute , 19 seconds into the game.
East Lyme answered later in the quarter when senior Nic Page set up Ethan Opsahl in front to tie the score.
The Vikings fell behind again early in the second quarter before Ethan Opsahl scored again. But Avon kept finding cracks in the defense, as Corrigan and Andrew St. Jean scored to hand the visitors a 4-2 lead at the break.
The game began slipping away from East Lyme in the third quarter, as Avon built a 6-3 lead. The Vikings had trouble generating accurate shots on goal.
"We were just holding our sticks too tight," Wight said. "We were trying to force things. We were trying too hard."
As the fourth quarter began, Wight encouraged the Vikings to crank up the defensive pressure to try to regain possession. A disciplined Avon remained in control until the end.
Wight praised the contribution of his senior class. The Vikings had to replace eight starters from last year's team and still won their fourth straight Eastern Connecticut Conference championship and qualified for the state tournament.
"I'm very proud of the effort of the guys this year," Wight said. "We filled a lot of roles and empty spaces from graduating (players) last year. They really did an outstanding job. Our seniors did a phenomenal job and really took the underclassmen under their wing. ... We're going to be better off next year because of the efforts of the seniors.
" ... We've come a long way this season. Obviously, we're disappointed with losing. Overall, looking at the big picture, we really came together as a team."
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