The 12-man senior class populating Rocky River’s boys lacrosse roster didn’t need to shout at one another or let heads hang when the fourth quarter got a little close for comfort on April 29.
This particular group of Pirates are longtime best friends who’ve practiced and played together since middle school. So when visiting Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit scored two goals in less than a minute to cut a 5-2 deficit to 5-4, the Pirates simply made eye contact and knew at once it was time to regroup.
Naturally, those seniors led the response. Hayden Weaver and Nathan Robertson each scored with 7:07 and 5:48 left to play, respectively, providing the Pirates with crucial insurance in an eventual 7-5 victory on “Senior Night”.
“Nothing was really said,” explained Robertson, who also scored the team’s first goal of the night halfway through the first quarter. “We just knew that we had to execute, and that’s what we did…”We had our ups and downs during the game. It was a grind, but a good win on ‘Senior Night’.”
It was the Pirates’ seventh win in eight games, and snapped the six-game win streak of a Warriors team that they face in Region 5 of Division II.
“We made adjustments when we had to, scored when we needed to, got saves when we needed it and got the win, so I can’t complain” Pirates coach Bobby Perez said.
They trailed briefly after Warriors (8-3) speedster Simon Orzell grabbed the opening faceoff and scored on his own just seven seconds into regulation. But as they did late in the contest, the veteran Pirates (9-3) regrouped early, and scored four straight goals between the first and second periods to go up 4-1. Along with Robertson’s goal with 6:04 left in the first, sophomore Ryan Hildebrand scored twice and senior Charlie Hudson added another with the team down a man following a foul call.
With 57 seconds left in a hard-fought third quarter, senior Will Bennett scored in a man-advantage situation to increase the lead to 5-2, and it looked like the Pirates had all the game’s momentum. A pair of fouls called on the Pirates over the course of one minute of the fourth quarter put the Warriors a man up, however, and the lead was in jeopardy.
Orzell, who scored just before halftime, struck for the third time, scoring with 10:45 left, then assisted on Cooper Kirda’s goal with 9:40 remaining to make it 5-4.
With both teams back at full strength, the Pirates gained possession and were forced to try and find openings in the Warriors’ zone defense–something they had only sparingly prepared for in the leadup to the game. Weaver, striking from the left side of the net, was the first to break it. Using a cut inside to nab a pass from Bennett and quickly shoot, Robertson became the second.
“We didn’t see a ton of zone on film in preparation for the game, so we weren’t practicing it all week,” Perez said. “I’m happy we faced a little adversity and came out with a win... (Beating a zone) is all about spacing and forcing them to rotate, and then moving the ball faster than they can rotate. We didn’t do a great job of that tonight because we weren’t prepping for it, but we’ll be better at it in the future.”
Kirda scored with 5:21 left to pull the Warriors back to within two, 7-5, but the Pirates managed to maintain possession and chew clock for much of the remaining time. Afterward, the team could celebrate its seniors who led the way.
“We’ve got 12 guys in this class, so it’s a big class,” Robertson said. “We’ve been playing together since middle school, so it’s a strong bond. We all work together really well.”
The Pirates outshot the Warriors 17-13 on net. Senior goalie Reece Rochester finished with eight saves, while Warriors counterpart Nick Jarosewich had 11.
Rocky River will next play at Kenston on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
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