Headed into the fourth and final quarter up 11-3, the Indian River High School boys’ lacrosse team had their fifth win in a row all but locked up. But, just like the rain on Friday, April 29, Smyrna refused to go away.
A string of fast breaks and extra-man opportunities led to four unanswered goals as the Eagles tried to mount their comeback, generating some momentum and cutting the lead down to 11-7.
“You could almost feel the momentum start to change,” said coach Dave Spencer. “That’s the point in time where you need to make an adjustment and have one of your players make a play.”
The play the Indians needed to make would come from one of their top playmakers, in junior midfielder George Martin.
With 6:16 left to go, the Tribe’s leading scorer had gotten himself open up top, just as sophomore attackman Cole Josetti had freed himself from a double-team while darting around the cage.
“We knew we needed to score,” said Martin. “When I saw that ball coming toward me, I knew I had to make a move and we needed to end this run right now.”
While the goal would finally stop the bleeding, the Indians wouldn’t fully get back their mojo until around two minutes later when, after the Eagles answered to make it 12-8, junior midfielder and face-off specialist Sam Nitz took the draw and ran two defenders all the way to the house, finding the net for the first time in his varsity career.
“I was getting frustrated. I had to make up for it somehow,” Nitz said of his fourth-quarter struggle at the face-off X. “Just starting with the ball and being able to keep it, and then coming up with a goal, was a huge boost.”
Two late stops from junior keeper Hayden McWilliams kept the Eagles off the board, as the Indians held the 13-8 lead and notched their fifth consecutive win, improving to 6-4 on the season after a 1-4 start.
But while the game’s final minutes may have held their fair share of uncertainty, the opening minutes had been dominated by IR.
Junior midfielder Max Stong had gotten the scoring started early with a quick strike after running back a clear to make it 1-0. Then, after Smyrna had tied it up, the Indians went on their run.
First, it was sophomore attackman Wyatt Kovatch knocking in a loose ball on the crease to make it 2-1. Martin pushed the lead to 3-1 just 0:13 later, and with the quarter nearly through, junior midfielder Andrew White had scooped up a loose ball and dodged defenders all the way down the sideline for a score to make it 4-1.
Second-quarter goals from Josetti and senior attackman Josh Lucido, and two more from Martin would give the Indians an 8-3 lead headed into the break.
“We wanted to push the pace and have them trying to play catch up with us,” Spencer said of the hot start. “We got up a little bit in the first half. Our guys were making the right looks.”
The third quarter held similar success, as Martin ended the day leading the scoring charge with four goals and an assist, Lucido finished with three goals an assist, White with a goal and two assists, and defenseman Kyle Yerkes got in on the scoring action with his first assist of the season.
A 9-6 win over Milford on Wednesday, April 27 — the first in program history — put the squad at 2-2 in the Henlopen South as they looked toward division matchups against Lake Forest (7-3, 3-2) on Wednesday, May 4, (after Coastal Point press time) and Delmar (7-2, 3-1) on Friday, May 6.
After taking down Delmar — also for the first time in program history — and getting edged by Lake earlier this season, the Wildcats’ 18-10 win over the Spartans on Friday, April 29, could have potentially put the Indians back in the driver’s seat and in control of their own South title destiny.
But just as they have throughout their turnaround this season, they’re taking things one game at a time.
“We’re feeling pretty good,” said Spencer. “The kids are just working so hard, and we’re so proud of their effort — they believe in each other.”
“We know we’re only getting better,” said Martin. “As long as we win out, we’ll have a chance to play for a division championship, and we’ll go forward from there. First, we gotta get past Lake. Then, we gotta get past Delmar.”
Goals: G. Martin (4), J. Lucido (3), C. Josetti (2), W. Kovatch (1), M. Stong (1), S. Nitz (1), A. White (1)
Assists: A. White (2), C. Josetti (1), J. Lucido (1), G. Martin (1), K. Yerkes (1)
Saves: H. McWilliams (18)