Because of two postponements in the first week of the season, the Warwick Vets lacrosse team had to wait longer than any team in the state to take the field. When the Hurricanes finally did last Wednesday, they were chomping at the bit and they took 1-0 and 2-1 leads over cross-town rival Toll Gate.
The Titans weathered that storm, though – and then created one of their own.
After falling behind 2-1 with 10:20 left in the second quarter, the Titans out-scored Vets 8-1 the rest of the way and cruised to a 9-3 victory.
“This is always a tough Vets team,” said Toll Gate head coach Mike Vadney. “This is their first game and they came out ready to play. We just couldn’t get anything going at first, and then all of a sudden, the offense seemed to wake up.”
Toll Gate improved to 2-1 with the win. Vets fell to 0-1 but returned to action Friday and evened its record with an 8-6 victory over Westerly.
The offensive surge in Wednesday’s game allowed the Titans to put up their best numbers of the young season. They scored three goals in a 4-3 loss to Narragansett before putting seven on the board in a victory over Coventry.
Senior Kevin Vittum led the way for the Titans on Wednesday with five goals and two assists, while Casey Correia had two goals. Kyle Ellis and Mitch Howkins had one each.
“We came off a win on Monday and I feel like we’re getting stronger and stronger every game,” said Vittum, a senior attacker.
On Wednesday, it just took the Titans a while to show that strength.
Vets got a goal from Cody Sullivan less than four minutes into the game to go up 1-0. Toll Gate tied it at 1-1 on a goal by Vittum late in the period, but Vets went back on top 1:40 into the second quarter when Nathan Brotman found the net.
For an inexperienced Vets team, it was quite a start.
“I was very impressed with what I saw from the beginning because I didn’t know what to expect,” said Vets coach Fred Schweizer. “We have a ton of new guys and we had a month of preseason. They really impressed me in the first half. They moved the ball well. The defense played with their feet well. We just ran out of gas. Toll Gate has some very talented attackmen and we just couldn’t keep up.”
Just two minutes after Brotman’s goal, Vittum tied the game again. The teams then went almost eight minutes without a goal before the Titans grabbed their first lead on a Correia goal with 55 seconds left in the first half.
In the second half, the Titans really turned it on.
Correia and Vittum scored midway through the second period to make it 5-2. Vets momentarily stopped the bleeding on a goal by Dan Pickering, but Toll Gate scored four unanswered goals in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
“They broke out of that funk and just settled in and relaxed,” Vadney said. “I think once they relaxed they started handling the ball better. They just had more fun. You could see that. The ball movement was faster and that’s something we’ve been emphasizing. We don’t want to hold the ball. We want to move it.”
One of the biggest keys for Toll Gate was pulling away when Vets threatened. Pickering’s goal came with plenty of time still left and made it a two-goal game. But the Titans dominated the action from there and got goals from Vittum, Howkins and Ellis to put the game on ice.
“This is a tough Vets team,” Vadney said. “They don’t give up. The key is you’ve got to put it to them and bury them. You can’t give them that chance. They took one from us last year and the two after that were very close. It’s very important. I always tell these guys, ‘Put a lot in the net and don’t look back.’”
Vadney was happy to see that come to fruition. With goalie Josh Giarrantano anchoring the defense, the Titans should be able to control teams. If they can score at the other end, they’ll be a contender.
“The defense did their usual good job,” Vadney said. “It was nice to see the offense become very productive today. I’m very happy with what they were able to accomplish. Hopefully we can continue to push that.”
On the other side, Vets took plenty of positives out of the loss and has already built on them with the win Friday. Now that the ’Canes are finally on the field, they’ll only pick up speed.
“It would be one thing if I walked away from this not knowing what we needed to work on,” Schweizer said Wednesday. “But we as a coaching staff know where to go from here. The fact that we saw what we did in the first half speaks volumes about these kids and the potential they have.”
Vets will be back in action Wednesday when it visits Narragansett at 3:45 p.m. Toll Gate also plays Wednesday at home against Westerly at 4 p.m.