The Robinson Rams punched at their weight and then some but came up just short in a valiant attempt to send off defending state title holder Langley from postseason play at the launch of the boys lacrosse Northern Region tournament competition on Wednesday, May 16.
The host Saxons survived to compete again another day – they advance to face the South Count Stallions, winners this past Tuesday over the Yorktown Patriots (6-11), at Langley on Friday – but only by the thinnest of margins in an 8-7 clash that could easily have gone the other way. With the loss, Coach Matt Curran’s Rams (7-7) concluded their 2012 campaign having been assigned a tough task for their region play-off opener, and missing the tournament quarterfinal stage for the first time going back to at least 1999.
Senior attackman Mike Adams delivered four goals for the Saxons, the last two of which were third quarter strikes that gave Langley a 7-4 lead and a hint of a decisive edge for the first time following an opening half that featured balanced, see-saw battle and four lead changes.
Robinson senior attacker Alex Barber supplied a hat-trick, including a pair of goals in reply to Adams’ last two that pulled the Rams to within one goal of leveling matters early in the final quarter. The two strikes injected the visitors with greater belief that the road win just might be within their reach with the score 7-6 and nearly 10 minutes remaining on the game clock.
Langley’s defense, however, held firm through a good stretch of the final period, and with the Saxons enjoying a man-advantage situation late in the quarter, middie Luke Salzer blasted in an unassisted shot from 15 yards to double the goal margin. The Langley junior’s strike proved to be the difference when Rams senior middie Hunter Jasien retaliated less than a minute later with a man-advantage goal of his own for the 8-7 score line and a little more than two minutes left in regulation to find an equalizer.
But what seemed to be shaping up as a thrilling finale fizzled into a series of unforced errors and easy giveaways going both ways – a failure-to-advance and a technical foul by the Saxons, errant passing by Robinson – that starved the encounter of any meaningful action to the conclusion. A letdown for spectators, surely disappointment for the Rams and their faithful supporters, yet no doubt relief for a Langley squad emerging as victors for a second time in as many games by only a single goal.
In addition to Adams’ quartet and the solo strike from Salzer, the Saxons got single goals - all unassisted - from senior attacker Sean Ahearn, senior middie Tyler Baskins and sophomore attack/middie J. T. Tyler, who furnished the game-opener that came nearly 10 minutes into the contest that started out with periods of sustained possession by each side and cautious moves on the attack.
Baskins tied the game at 2-2 early in the second quarter. Ahearn struck late in the first half to give Langley a lead it would never relinquish, scoring just after stick-checking Robinson goalie Nick Kondracki to separate ball from the sophomore netminder, collecting the groundball and finding an unguarded net to flick into for the 5-4 Saxon advantage going into the halftime break.
BARBER AND JASIEN were joined by two other Rams players, both senior middies, who solved Langley goalie Andrew Spivey, with Clarke Pietruszka firing in a pair to go with a single goal from Sean McShea. Both Pietruszka goals were nearly identical, inch-perfect left-handed deliveries that found the far side of Spivey’s cage at a sharp angle from 10 yards. McShea produced an eight-yard bounce-shot effort that snuck in past the Saxon goalie for Robinson’s first lead of the game early in the second period.
Spivey, a senior, was credited with seven saves while Kondracki in the opposite net turned away eight Saxon scoring bids. Langley dominated the center spot for the evening, winning 14 of 19 face-offs in the game, the large majority taken by Saxon senior middie Spencer Gorham.
Langley (16-2) last faced South County, its opponent on Friday, in a Northern Region first-round match-up on May 16, 2006, with Coach Earl Brewer’s Saxons prevailing comfortably in a 17-6 home win.