With the way the Toll Gate boys’ lacrosse team has been playing offensively, the Titans were practically out of Friday’s game with Cranston West after just 10 minutes of play.
Struggling to score over its past five games, Toll Gate allowed four quick goals from the upstart Falcons to fall behind 4-0. While the Titans played better from there – out-scoring West 2-0 in the second half – the bad start was enough to end their chances in an eventual 7-3 defeat.
“We just didn’t have a great practice yesterday, and it showed,” Toll Gate head coach Mike Vadney said. “We just were flat. We let Cranston come in and score four fast goals on us. That was it.”
After scoring 26 goals in its first two games, both of which were wins, the Titans haven’t been able to find their groove. They’ve scored 15 total goals in the five games since, with a five-goal showing against North Smithfield/Burrillville as its best output in that span.
And with the lack of goals has come a lack of wins. Since starting out 2-0, Toll Gate is just 1-4. The team has been competitive, losing 5-4 to second-place Lincoln and 5-2 to Westerly, but it’s hard to rack up victories when you can’t rack up goals.
Toll Gate is now 3-4 in Division III, tied for seventh with Westerly.
West, which lost its first game of the season, picked up its sixth consecutive win to move to 6-1, good for a tie for second in the division.
“We’re beating the teams that we should, we’re playing tough against the other teams,” Vadney said. “We’re losing games 5-4, 5-2. In lacrosse, if you give up five goals, that’s nothing. That’s solid. We’re just not generating the points.”
Early on Friday, West was generating plenty of them. Camren Bent scored just 1:44 into the game, and Anthony Rodi scored 45 seconds later to make it 2-0.
While Toll Gate struggled to put shots on net, the Falcons got another goal with 4:32 to play in the first quarter when Jared Tirocchi found Rich D’Amico in front, and he beat Titans’ goaltender John Coleman.
Finally, with 2:33 left in the period, Jake Moretti stole the ball while Toll Gate had possession in West’s end, then carried it up into the attacking zone. He dumped it off to Trent Colford on the right, who fired a pass across the middle to Bent. Bent caught it cleanly and scored in one motion, making it 4-0 just like that.
The Titans were playing without defenseman Mike Palumbo.
“They actually got a bunch of transition goals on us, which is strange because we’re a very good transition team,” Vadney said.
It didn’t get much better in the second half, as the Falcons added a fifth goal four minutes into the quarter when D’Amico scored on a jump shot off a pass from Bent.
Toll Gate threatened in the middle of the period, as Jesse Butler put a shot on West goalie Michael Pierce from directly in front, but it was turned aside. Twenty-nine seconds later, the Falcons were on the attack again, and A.J. Renzi found the back of the net for a six-goal advantage.
Not even two minutes later, Tirocchi bounced one past Coleman. The Titans trailed 7-0.
“That flat-footedness that came out in the first half – you can’t expect to spot a team seven goals and then try to climb back in,” Vadney said.
Still playing hard, Toll Gate finally got on the board with just over a minute to play, as Butler had the ball knocked away by Pierce near the goal and the rebound came out to Jack Sullivan, who quickly threw it in to the open net.
The second half was significantly better for the Titans, as they held West from scoring the entire way. Coleman was solid in net, while the defense consistently turned away pressure.
Yet, the offense couldn’t close the gap. A shot by Josh Sandin was saved by Pierce – who made 16 of them on the day – with 6:30 to play in the third, and Toll Gate couldn’t do anything on a two-man advantage later in the quarter. The teams went into the fourth with the score still 7-1.
Eventually, the Titans started to make a slight comeback, but it was much too late. Butler bounced a shot home from the left point with 6:05 to play, and not long afterwards, Zelano scored on an underhand shot off a pass from Butler.
But that was it. Toll Gate didn’t threaten much more, and West finished with another win despite scoring all seven of its goals in the first half.
“I’ve got a phenomenal defense,” West head coach Jared Zimmer said. “(Alex) Nyzio, (Jack) Hammond, Damien (Andrus), I lucked into a good situation with that defense and Michael Pierce in goal. They’re the backbone of this team. We play from our defense out.”
The Titans will need to turn it around quickly if they’re going to stay in the hunt in D-III, as expansion – including the addition of West – has made the league tougher and deeper. Toll Gate will be trying to right the ship on Wednesday, when it hosts 6-1 Coventry at 3:30 p.m.
“This was just a very humbling, frustrating day,” Vadney said.