The Old Saybrook boys' lacrosse team didn't quite have the outcome it had hoped for and achieved in the past when facing Valley Regional on May 14. Always a tight game when these two rivals face each other, it was the Warriors who earned a 12-9 victory-a first-after taking an early 4-0 lead that the Rams could not overcome.
"I think we just have problems this year with motivation in terms of we get down a couple of goals and we get discouraged early and we have a hard time getting back," said Old Saybrook Coach Kevin Wakelee, whose squad is 4-8. "That margin was tough, but they kept fighting back and played really hard. And it's always challenging to beat somebody again after beating them earlier in the season because there's always that element of getting complacent."
With both teams struggling for control of the ball and fighting for ground balls, it was Valley's (6-8) speed that finally overpowered the Rams as sophomore attack Holden King (3 goals, 1 assist) scored the first goal of the game at the 6:58 mark to put the Warriors up 1-0.
Just a minute later, and in the midst of some confusion in front of the net, Saybrook created some holes and Valley junior attack Tazer Landow (2 goals, 1 assist) was able to get one past Rams' keeper Joe Tiden (6 saves) for the Warriors' second goal at 5:59 to make the score 2-0. Then as an offensive scuffle ensued in front of the Rams' net, the Warriors' King was able to get control of the ball and take it downfield, immediately putting a laser shot on goal that slipped just past Tiden's stick at 4:18 to make it 3-0 in favor of Valley.
Freshman goalie Spencer Russo's (14 saves) skill was tested in a hurry again as Old Saybrook went in for the kill, lobbing shot after shot that he continued to be blocked, although Valley's powerful offense struck again as senior midfielder Marty Lucero won a scuffle at the 25-yard line for a pass to Landow that sailed in for a 4-0 score with 2:17 left to play in the first quarter.
Old Saybrook came back in the second quarter and immediately made it clear it wouldn't go down easy as junior midfielder Liam O'Donnell (1 goal, 1 assist) passed to sophomore attack Reilly Hill (4 goals) for the Rams' first goal at 11:29. As Tiden relentlessly fended off consecutive shots from the Warriors, King scored again at the 8:54 mark on a Landow delivery to give Valley a 5-1 advantage.
Old Saybrook answered back at 8:14 on a goal from O'Donnell as the Rams attempted to creep back with the score 5-2 and then notched another one by sophomore midfielder Mike Rose (2 goals) just a minute later on senior attack Nick Santamaria's assist to make it 5-3.
With 3:17 left to play in the half, Valley got one back when freshman attack Ben Ferrucci scored after respossessing the ball on an Old Saybrook run attempt to make it 6-3. The Rams then countered with a score from Hill thanks to some quick footwork with just over two minutes left to play in the first half.
The Warriors scored again with just 18.7 seconds left when King passed to Ferrucci for the Warriors' seventh score, which put the halftime mark at 7-4.
Valley came out of the gates firing on all cylinders in the second half, winning the faceoff and taking the ball downfield, where despite the Rams' best defensive efforts, Ferrucci scored at 10:34 to give the Warriors an 8-4 cushion.
After Saybrook's O'Donnell took a shot on goal and a ground ball was released to Santamaria, Rose battled his way past Valley senior defender Justus Doane and senior midfielder Ian Lemley for another shot. Old Saybrook was able to keep the ball down on its end of the field and create a play that saw Valley sophomore midfielder Jake Luster steal the ball and run it downfield so the Warriors could test Tiden again, but Valley scored again at the 4:25 mark when Ferrucci put the Warriors up 9-4.
Old Saybrook got a score back at the 3:32 mark when junior midfielder Kent Tiden (2 goals, 1 assist) delivered the ball across the zone and passed to Rose for the goal, bringing the Rams to within a 9-5 score. They again added to that on a Hill goal to cut the lead to 9-6 with 3:16 left in the third quarter.
With six seconds left in the third, Valley's Ferrucci took an Old Saybrook-intended pass at the 25 and ran it for a one-on-one showdown with Joe Tiden and won the battle, giving Valley a 10-6 advantage at the end of three.
At the 6:43 point in the fourth quarter, Kent Tiden scored to make it 10-7 despite being down a man due to a penalty and then scored again just seconds later after running in from the left side for the one-on-one shot around Valley's defense to bring the Rams to within two at 10-8.
That was as close as the Rams would get, however, as Valley got a goal back at the 5:20 mark when Ferrucci scored from outside the zone to bridge the gap to 11-8 and then scored again just two minutes later to make it 12-8. Old Saybrook scored once more with under a minute left when Hill made it 12-9, giving Valley the victory and spot in the state tournament.
"We practiced hard all week, had a really good week of practice, actually, and the guys were warned about [Valley] coming over hungry, and they did, so at some point you can only prepare and at some point the guys have to play," said Wakelee. "Not to take anything away from Valley because they played very well. We're fighting for states-I think everyone's aware of the urgency and so we need to play."