The Toll Gate boys’ lacrosse team came out of the gates hot on Friday, but it cooled off considerably in the second quarter.
As its four-goal lead was whittled down to only two against cross-town rival Warwick Vets, the Titans looked like they were in a battle. When the ’Canes got within one in the third quarter, everything seemed to be going Vets’ way.
But Toll Gate had the answer.
Ahead only 5-4 midway through the third, the Titans scored five goals from there on out, and their defense held Vets without a goal. Just like that, a close game turned into a convincing 10-4 victory for Toll Gate, which improved to 7-2 on the season.
Vets, on the other hand, fell to 3-5. The Titans are in second place in Division III-South – behind only 8-1 Narragansett – while the ’Canes are in fourth.
“That’s always the case with Vets,” Toll Gate head coach Mike Vadney said. “It doesn’t matter – it’s going to be close. Third and fourth quarter, I think we kind of found that rhythm again and kind of started generating some points.”
Casey Correia and Kevin Vittum set the pace offensively, as they each tallied four goals on the day, while Correia had two assists and Vittum had one. In net, Josh Giarrantano made nine saves.
Toll Gate was coming off a 7-4 loss to unbeaten Smithfield on Wednesday and needed a win to right the ship again.
“We’re coming off the loss,” Correia said. “We wanted to beat Vets. They’re not an easy team. We kind of had a hard time last time. We all played good.”
The loss for the ’Canes halted a two-game winning streak, in which they had beaten East Providence and Burrillville/North Smithfield.
On Friday, the Titans simply had too much.
Toll Gate dominated the first quarter, getting four goals in the final seven minutes. Vittum scored the first one, and Correia followed that up with three of his own.
In the second, though, the momentum shifted. Vets consistently controlled the ball better than it did in the opening quarter, and it showed on the scoreboard. Shawn Goff and Nathan Brotman each scored, while the Titans were held without a goal. That made it 4-2 at halftime.
“First quarter, we did pretty well,” Vadney said. “We kind of found an early rhythm. Second quarter, Vets had an answer for it. I’m not 100 percent sure how they locked it down, or if it was us. It got tight.”
The Titans finally scored again nearly three minutes into the third quarter, when Vets goalie Kyle Corvese – who made 18 saves on the day – turned the ball over to Vittum, who buried the shot from close range.
That put the score at 5-2, but the ’Canes still had a run in them. Just over a minute later, Will Hay found Brotman cutting in front of Toll Gate’s net, and Brotman scored his second of the day.
Two minutes after that, Hay found Goff open in front, and he buried his second goal of the game to pull the ’Canes within 5-4.
As quickly as Vets made the score close, though, Toll Gate regained some separation.
Thirty-seven seconds later, Correia held the ball in front, and found Vittum charging from behind the net. Vittum caught the ball and leaped high on the right side, forcing the ball into the goal for a 6-4 lead.
“That one goal that Vittum had, that was beautiful,” Vadney said. “I wish we had it on video.”
Then, as time started to wind down in the third quarter, Toll Gate kept up the pressure. With 2:53 left, Kyle Ellis fired a long range shot at Corvese and scored, increasing the lead to three goals. Finally, with 1:25 to play in the quarter, Vittum took a jump shot from the left side and somehow scored again, making it 8-4 headed to the final quarter.
“Those kids, they came up big when we needed them,” Vadney said. “That attack, I think it’s probably the best attack in Division III at this point.”
With Vets frantically trying to get back in the game early in the fourth, their hopes took a big blow when Brotman was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, which resulted in a three-minute locked penalty.
That meant the ’Canes had to try to come back while down a man in the offensive zone. Instead, Toll Gate extended its lead.
It got a goal from Correia four minutes in on a pass from Vittum, and then Anthony Zelano scored the Titans’ final goal of the game with 3:02 remaining.
On the other end, any time Vets thought it had an opening, a Toll Gate defender seemed to be there to shut it down. The group of Cameron Williams, Colby Connell, Michael Palumbo and Steve Haley – who recently returned from a knee injury – kept the ’Canes at bay the entire quarter.
That didn’t come as a surprise to Vadney, who has watched his defense grow into one of the best in the division. Toll Gate has surrendered the fewest goals in Division III with 32.
“It was really nice coming off the loss to Smithfield to kind of bounce back,” Vadney said. “It was a little bit tight, and pulling away and playing good defense like that was what we needed to do.”
With the season winding down, both teams will now gear up for the stretch run. The ’Canes host 4-4 Tiverton/Rogers today at 3:45 p.m., and they have four games remaining after that to try to make the postseason.
Toll Gate was scheduled to take on 3-6 Burrillville/North Smithfield on Monday, with the results unavailable at press time.
The Titans will then have three games remaining, including a game this Wednesday at Narragansett at 3:45 p.m., which could potentially be for the D-III-South title.
“I feel really good about the way we’re playing,” Correia said. “I think this is the best record we’ve had in years.