The third-seeded Toll Gate lacrosse team had a plan in mind for Saturday’s Division III quarterfinal showdown with No. 6 Tiverton/Rogers.
The Titans wanted to jump on top right off the bat and not give the Tigers a chance to hang around.
But just 2:28 into the game, it was Tiverton/Rogers that struck first. Jack Pavao launched a long shot into the net for the 1-0 lead.
However, what should have been a motivating moment for Tiverton/Rogers seemed to wake up the Titans, and it didn’t take much longer for them to start executing the plan.
Five first-quarter goals later, Toll Gate was on its way, as it advanced to the D-III semifinals for the second consecutive season with an 11-3 win over the Tigers.
Toll Gate’s opponent in the semis will be No. 2 seeded Narragansett, which defeated East Providence on Friday.
"It was nice,” Toll Gate head coach Mike Vadney said. “It was kind of tough when we stepped on, after they had their prom last night. I didn't know if they were going to have their heads on straight, be fatigued or what have you. And after they scored that first goal I think our guys were kind of like, ‘Oh, alright, let's step up our game.’”
Kevin Vittum scored a season-high six goals for the Titans, while Max Lupovitz added two. Toll Gate also got goals from Alex Welch, Mitch Howkins and Colby Connell to round out the scoring.
The balance – aided by a dominant performance from Vittum – led to one of Toll Gate’s best offensive outputs of the season.
"We were scoring them on the fast break,” Vittum said. “We'd get it into the offensive zone and we'd just move the ball around really quick. It messed up the defense and it left openings in the middle of the field for us to come in and score."
After Pavao scored for Tiverton/Rogers right off the bat, Vittum scored four consecutive goals over a three minute, 47-second span to put Toll Gate thoroughly in control.
The Tigers simply had no answer.
"That was a good quarter for us,” Vittum said. “Probably one of the best we've played all year."
Once Vittum finished his personal barrage, Lupovitz kept up the good times by spinning twice to free himself up in front, then firing a shot into the net for a 5-1 advantage.
In the second quarter, Connell – a defenseman – carried the ball from coast-to-coast before scoring to make it 6-1 at halftime.
"All week in practice we've been simulating a really aggressive defense, because Tiverton has a really aggressive style,” Vadney said. “And I think that kind of gave the guys the opportunity to really work on a few things. Then, when that pressure wasn't there, I think they realized that they could have some fun."
In the third quarter, the Titans stretched their lead, getting a goal from Howkins early on before Vittum and Lupovitz each scored to make it 9-1.
Also during that quarter, Toll Gate goalie Josh Giarrantano was issued a mouthpiece violation, and back-up goaltender John Coleman was forced into action.
But without missing a beat, Coleman kept Tiverton out of the goal and the Titans kept their eight-goal lead.
"John came in really well and made an impressive kick save,” Vadney said. “That was some good stuff."
Tiverton/Rogers picked up its second goal of the day when Pavao scored in the opening minute of the fourth, but Welch scored soon afterwards to make it 10-2. David Johnston then tallied one for Tiverton/Rogers before Vittum scored his sixth and final goal of the day.
Now the Titans will take on Narragansett. The Mariners beat Toll Gate twice during the regular season, most recently 6-3 on May 15. Prior to that, Narragansett beat Toll Gate 4-3 on April 4.
"We've already lost two to them,” Vittum said. “Hopefully we'll come back and win where it counts."
Vadney thinks beating Narragansett is a doable task – his team will just have to play better than it did in the first two meetings.
"I think our offense has to settle in and has to do what we do best,” Vadney said. “We have to just maintain possession and see if we can play our offensive game. Defensively against them, we just didn't have our usual good game defensively last game. If we can clean it up, I'm hoping the third time's a charm."
That game will be played at Narragansett on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. The winner will advance to the D-III championship game, which will be held at Rhode Island College on Sunday.
The other semifinal features top-seeded Smithfield and No. 4 Coventry.