Last season, Warwick Vets beat Toll Gate for just the second time in the short history of their lacrosse rivalry.
The Titans were back where they wanted to be Thursday.
In the only regular-season meeting of the year between the teams, host Toll Gate started fast with three first-quarter goals and kept the ’Canes at arm’s length the rest of the way in an 8-3 victory.
“The kids are always up for this,” said Toll Gate head coach Mike Vadney. “I think they wanted to say, ‘Hey, we’re the top team in Warwick right now.’”
The match-up was also the stage for the second annual Lime-Out game, where the teams don as much green as they can while raising money for the HEADstrong Foundation, which focuses on blood cancer awareness. Initial estimates had the teams raising about $300 for the cause.
“That’s a great game,” Vadney said. “I love being part of that.”
The win made it even better for the Titans, who were coming off a 10-8 loss to Coventry on Tuesday. In that game – and in several others – the Titans have gotten off to slow starts.
They didn’t let that happen Thursday.
On the opening possession of the game, Andrew Zelano gave the Titans a 1-0 lead. After Toll Gate won the ensuing draw, Jesse Butler made it 2-0.
Chris Defreitas made a save for Vets on Toll Gate’s next possession, and the ’Canes finally got a chance to control the ball, holding it for several minutes. But as soon as they gave it up, the Titans streaked down the field and got a Zelano goal in transition for the 3-0 lead.
“Coventry, we gave them a four-goal lead right out off the bat,” Vadney said. “I think these guys came out a little bit pumped up today. We stepped up.”
Jacob Plouffe got Vets on the board early in the second quarter on a shot from the right side, and Mickenzey Pacheco made it 3-2 a few minutes later.
But the Titans answered.
Will Patenaude scored a highlight-reel goal when he weaved through traffic and muscled a shot past Defreitas to make it 4-2. Zelano added a goal later in the quarter and the Titans went to halftime in front 5-2.
Vets, after its brief surge, didn’t have the same kind of sustained possessions for the rest of the quarter.
“We needed to protect the ball better, offensively and in transition,” said Vets head coach Fred Schweizer. “That kind of killed us today. That’s the thing that will take us to the next level.”
Jackson Burgos made nine saves to keep the Titans in control, and the offense cruised on with three second-half goals. Butler scored his second goal of the day less than a minute into the third quarter. Pacheco made it 6-3 soon after, but the Titans scored two unanswered in the fourth quarter to finish the job. Zach Bromage scored with 3:30 to go and Jack Sullivan added the exclamation point with a goal at the one-minute mark.
Defreitas made 15 saves for Vets and was named game MVP for the ’Canes. Zelano took the honor for Toll Gate.
The Titans improved to 6-2 in league play. Vadney has been pleased that, regardless of the score, his team is consistently pushing hard.
“The nice thing is, what I see from these guys, is beginning to end, they’re out for a win,” Vadney said. “That’s kind of the story of this season. From the opening whistle to the last whistle, they’re not giving up. I’ve had teams that go down two goals, and that’s it. These guys don’t do that. They want it.”
Vets fell to 2-7 and faces a tough stretch to end the season, but Schweizer is just looking for continued improvement from his young squad.
“We’re looking to get better every day,” Schweizer said. “We’re not looking at next year, because the season isn’t over. These guys are working hard. We’ve got three seniors and we’re doing it for them. We just want to improve on a daily basis. I’m proud of how hard we’re working. It’ll come.”