The Toll Gate boys’ lacrosse team didn’t start out its season with the toughest team in Division III, but the Titans also didn’t know what to expect. Nobody did.
Playing against Cranston East, a program in its first year of existence, Toll Gate tried to play its game and hoped everything else would take care of itself. Yet, about halfway through the third quarter, the Titans only held a 5-2 lead. East didn’t seem at all overmatched – until the final 15 minutes.
“I was a little nervous coming to Cranston East, because they always have athletes,” Toll Gate head coach Mike Vadney said. “You can always teach an athlete to play lacrosse.”
However, the Titans started to generate chances, and they didn’t waste many of them. They exploded for two more goals in the third quarter and then seven in the fourth to walk away with a 14-2 victory and 1-0 start to the season.
While the score certainly seems lopsided, for the majority of the game the outcome was still up in the air.
“If you look at the game in two halves, they were definitely two separate games,” Vadney said. “First half we were just rusty. Second half, after just reminding the midfielders that they can go in and scoop up a ball and go in hard, we started to have a little more success.”
Derryck Anderson and Brendan Murray led the way with three goals apiece, while Anthony Ottone added two and Jesse Butler, Anthony Zelano, Alex Welch, Colby Connell, Steve Mathews and Josh Sandin all scored once.
It was an impressive offensive effort – especially in the second half – and Vadney thinks it was just a matter of getting comfortable on the field. Once that happened, the goals started to pour in.
“We’ve been trying to get them to move in a motion offense and I think today, second half we actually had the ball a little more,” Vadney said. “They’re starting to see what it’s like.”
Toll Gate got out to a 4-0 first-quarter lead with two goals from Anderson and one apiece from Butler and Zelano, but East narrowed the gap toward the end of the period when Tom O’Mara scored the first goal in the program’s history, cutting in front to beat Toll Gate goalie John Coleman.
“In reality, for our first effort, we’re pretty happy,” East head coach Jim Creamer said.
The second quarter was scoreless, with the ’Bolts actually controlling much of the play. In the second half, Murray scored to give Toll Gate the 5-1 lead, but O’Mara responded with his second goal to make it 5-2.
Then the floodgates opened. Zelano found Welch in front for a quick goal, and Anderson scored on a pass from Welch just before time expired in the quarter.
In the fourth, the Titans kept at it. Colby Connell went coast-to-coast for a highlight-reel goal in the first minute, and suddenly the rout was on.
“The kid can just move up and down the field – short stick, long stick, doesn’t matter,” Vadney said of Connell. “I think just getting the ball to him was worth it. And he likes getting up the field.”
From there Toll Gate added six more goals, including three in a one-minute span toward the end of the game.
That put the finishing touches on a solid start to the season, even it was a little touch-and-go in the first half.
“All of a sudden you could see it click,” Vadney said.
Toll Gate was scheduled to take on Chariho – another program in its first year – on Wednesday, with the results unavailable at press time.
On Saturday, the Titans will travel to two-time defending Division III champion Smithfield. That game is at 1 p.m.