With 8:28 remaining in Friday’s game with Coventry, Cody Sullivan scored to put the Warwick Vets boys’ lacrosse team up 7-2 in a crucial Division III match-up.
But what looked like a surefire victory for the ’Canes quickly took a turn for the worse, and it never got back on track. The Oakers got a goal one minute and 38 seconds later and, with Vets on its heels, Coventry scored four more times in regulation to force overtime.
Four minutes into the sudden-death extra period, the Oakers got a counter-attack goal from Alex Izzi to shock Vets and leave the field with an 8-7 victory.
“Hats off to Coventry,” Vets head coach Fred Schweizer said. “Our guys lost their focus and weren’t picking up ground balls, but [Coventry] stepped up and finished when they needed to.”
Vets and Coventry came into the game with matching 4-5 records, and both are battling to secure playoff positions. The top eight teams qualify, and the loss moved the ’Canes into a tie for the fifth-best record in D-III with Tiverton/Rogers.
But it wasn’t so much the loss itself, but how it happened that hurt the most.
The ’Canes struggled with ground balls throughout the first three-plus quarters, but they played solid defense and were able to capitalize when they did get possession.
They led 4-2 at the half, and extended that lead out to 6-2 entering the fourth quarter. Will Hay scored twice, as did Nathan Brotman, and Diego Martinez and Shawn Goff each added a goal of their own. Coventry’s Andrew Pagano and Austin DiPietro also scored, but once Sullivan made it 7-2 for Vets early in the fourth, there didn’t appear to be anything the Oakers could do to get back into the game.
But the ’Canes left the door open.
“Ground balls,” Schweizer said. “We couldn’t scoop a ground ball all day, and I told them that was going to come back and haunt us. That’s exactly what happened.”
Coventry began its comeback with 6:50 remaining, when Ethan Tryhubczak scored after Vets goalie Kyle Corvese turned the ball over.
Still holding a four-goal lead, though, there was no reason for Vets to panic, but the game got much tighter just 43 seconds later when Tryhubczak scored again to make it 7-4.
Vets won the ensuing draw, but the ball was knocked loose and the Oakers were stronger on the ground ball. Matt LeBrun picked it up, took it the length of the field and found DiPietro next to the goal, who received the pass and buried the shot to suddenly make it a 7-5 game.
With 5:25 to play, Schweizer took a timeout.
“It was hard to get them back,” Schweizer said. “You call a timeout, you try to settle them down, and they’re already in their own heads. It’s tough at this level to tell them that all they’ve got to do is just breathe.”
The timeout actually seemed to calm the ’Canes, at least a little, as they held possession afterwards for a few minutes before another mistake cost them again.
Holding the ball behind its own goal, Vets turned it over to Tryhubczak, and he converted on his own to make it 7-6 with 2:53 left.
“They played three solid quarters, then you give up a goal, you give up another goal,” Schweizer said. “It’s frustrating. It’s one thing if they score on possession, they score from up top. But a couple of the goals we gave up were extremely weak.”
Vets tried to work the clock down, and had possession in Coventry’s end as the clock ticked below 1:30, but the Oakers stole the ball and called a timeout with 1:16 to play.
Coming out of the timeout, Pagano found Tryhubczak on the left side, and Tryhubczak ripped in his fourth goal of the fourth quarter to tie the score with exactly one minute remaining.
“We made a couple of adjustments, but really it’s just the kids,” Coventry head coach Herb DeSimone said. “It’s the kids staying focused and trusting in each other and believing in each other and continuing to work hard.”
Neither team threatened in the final 60 seconds, and the game went into overtime.
In the extra period, Vets dominated possession for the first three minutes. Hay missed the net on two long-range shots, and a shot from Dan Pickering was saved by Coventry goalie Nick Mowry.
Yet, the Oakers gained possession, and they caught a big break when Vets was whistled for offsides with 1:11 left. With Coventry on the man-advantage, Izzi ran at the goal from the right, made one move past a defender and fired a shot home, completing the Oakers’ comeback.
“The kids never quit,” DeSimone said. “They maintained their focus and they stepped it up. We got a couple of breaks and ended up on the right side.”
The loss was clearly hard to take for the ’Canes, but it isn’t crippling. There are still three games left in the regular season, including a rematch with the Oakers on Monday, with the results unavailable at press time.
Vets will also host 1-9 Westerly today at 3:45 p.m., then finish the regular season at home against 9-1 Narragansett on Friday, also at 3:45 p.m.