Twice during the regular season, the Toll Gate lacrosse team put up a fight, but came up short against Narragansett.
Playing in the Division III semifinals last Wednesday, the Titans watched that formula repeat itself for the third consecutive time.
No. 3 seeded Toll Gate battled the second-seeded Mariners to a 3-3 tie after three quarters, but three goals in the final period broke the game open and sent the Titans home with a 6-3 loss.
Narragansett advanced to the finals, where it lost 13-7 to unbeaten Smithfield on Sunday.
Toll Gate, which went to the finals a season ago, just couldn’t find the recipe to knock off the Mariners and give itself a shot at the title.
Narragansett beat the Titans 4-3 and 6-3 in their two prior meetings.
“It seems like we had more opportunities than we had in the second game we played against them,” Toll Gate head coach Mike Vadney said. “It was a good game all-around. They were able to convert. We converted, but not enough times.”
That was the script all season against Narragansett. The Titans could hang close, but ultimately couldn’t score enough goals to get over the hump.
Toll Gate didn’t struggle to score very often this season – it had the third-most goals in the division – but it struggled against the Mariners.
“I think we do a little bit more offensively,” Narragansett head coach Mark Chafee said. “I think we have a few more guys who can play offensively than they do. That helps us out.”
For three quarters, neither team was exactly lighting it up offensively, but the Mariners were heavily dictating play, and it seemed like it was only a matter of time before they finally started to convert.
“You can’t play defense for an entire game,” Vadney said.
In the third quarter, after six combined goals in the first half, neither team was able to find the net. But the Titans were constantly having to fight off attacks, and were bailed out on more than one occasion by goalie Josh Giarrantano.
It caught up to them in the fourth. Just 44 seconds in, Robert Pratt slung a pass to Henry McGreen standing to the right of Giarrantano, and he shot low for the tie-breaking goal, putting the Mariners up 4-3.
The goal meant that the Titans had to be more aggressive, which was necessary, but also dangerous.
“It was like, ‘Uh oh, now we have to create something,’” Vadney said. “When you do that, you extend yourself.”
Sure enough, with an emphasis on offense, Toll Gate struggled to get the ball. Its best opportunity came with 9:30 left, when Casey Correia fired a shot just wide of the net. Four minutes later Brendan Murray had his shot turned away by goalie Mitchell Kennedy. Other then that, however, it was all Narragansett.
With 2:32 to play, McGreen gained possession near half and sprinted toward the Toll Gate goal. After making two defenders miss, he beat Giarrantano from up close for a huge goal to put his team up 5-3.
“They pressed and that gave us the advantage,” Chafee said.
Toll Gate had one more golden opportunity with 1:20 to play, as Kyle Ellis wound up with the ball all by himself directly in front of Kennedy. But Kennedy made the save, and immediately got the ball out to Christopher Timpson. Timpson did the rest, going coast-to-coast before scoring with 1:09 to play, putting the game out of reach.
“As soon as I saw that save, I knew that was the season,” Vadney said.
And, as it turned out, Vadney was correct. Time ticked down, and the Mariners celebrated a trip to the finals. But Toll Gate was still proud of the way it played all season long, and in its final game.
Especially in the first half, there were plenty of positives. The Titans went up 1-0 five minutes into the game on a goal by Correia, before Narragansett scored the next three on shots by Zachary Humulock, Steven Iannucci and McGreen.
But Toll Gate came back, getting a goal from Ellis with just under four minutes to play in the second and another from Champ Prak with 1:35 left in the half.
The Titans also played their usually stellar defense, led by players like Steve Haley and Colby Connell, and got a typically strong effort from Giarrantano in net.
In the end, Narragansett just had too much.
“It was a great game,” Vadney said. “It was a great season. As far as record, 10-3 was the best season Toll Gate has ever had. I’m real proud of the season that these guys had. I would have liked to have been doing something on Sunday afternoon, but hats off to the guys from Narragansett.”