There were a lot of penalties–12 combined–when St. Edward hosted Rocky River in the teams’ lacrosse season opener March 19.
But there were also a lot of smiles and a lot of encouragement yelled from the sideline toward the players on the field at Brother James Everett C.S.C. Stadium. For the first time since the spring of 2019, the Eagles and Pirates were playing a real regular season game against a real opponent, with a real schedule poised to shake out.
The Eagles (1-0), loaded with talent and anchored by a trio of NCAA Division I recruits, rolled to a 12-4 victory over the Pirates (0-1). It was the start of a season of great expectations for the Eagles, who finished 12-7 and advanced to a regional semifinal two years ago..
“Tonight was a great start to the season, but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Eagles coach Bryan Lalley said. “We’re happy with the final result.”
It would be acceptable to forgive some of the infractions, at least this time. More than a win or loss, the teams were on the field just over one year after COVID-19 had forced them off of it.
“Just to come out for the first game was exciting,” Pirates senior defenseman Charlie Hudson said. “Everybody was looking forward to it all year and super pumped up for it...It was the first game in two years, so everybody’s going to be all over the place.”
Seven different Eagles scored, led by hat tricks from Danny Swingos and Dillon McKeigue. Bryce Madden scored two. As a team, they launched 37 shots–19 on-target–toward Pirates goalie Reece Rochester (9 saves).
After Will Bennett put the Pirates ahead 1-0 less than two minutes into the first quarter, the Eagles responded with six unanswered goals, eventually taking a 6-1 lead into halftime.
Pirates sophomore Ryan Hildebrand scored the first goal of his varsity career with 9:48 left in the third to make it 6-2, but the Eagles countered with another 6-0 run, three goals in the third and three more in the fourth, to up their lead to 12-2 with 2:26 remaining.
“It was nice to get out there and put some in the net,” said Swingos, a Rocky River resident. “It was nice to get some points up, too, get my buddies some points. It was really exciting.”
Hildebrand and Hayden Weaver each scored in the game’s final minute. All told, the Pirates finished with 24 shots, 12 of which were on-target against Eagles goalie Ryan Dunn, who made 12 saves.
The Pirates, who hadn’t lost to the Eagles in five years, have high expectations of their own. They finished the 2019 season 11-5, suffering an early tournament exit on an improbable last-second goal by Ottawa Hills in a 13-12 final.
That postseason game was played on May 13, and would mark the last time the Pirates would take the field together until playhing St. Edward.
“At Rocky River, the expectation is we’re going to compete for a regional championship, get to the state semifinals, finals and compete for a state championship. That’s the expectation and that’s how we roll,” Pirates coach Bobby Perez said. “A 12-4 loss doesn’t mean as much to me in March as long as we’re playing well in May and, hopefully, June. All we care about is the next game.”
The Pirates’ next game is set for Saturday at home against Toledo St. Francis at 7 p.m. The Eagles will travel to Mentor on Saturday for a 3 p.m. start.
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