In an attempt to share our season with you, we will be writing about our game experiences on the blog. These posts will include a player telling you all about the game we recently played. Be on the lookout for more posts as the season progresses.
Our second game of the season was played against Michigan-Dearborn (CCLA division 2) in Birmingham, Michigan. As a senior on the team, some of my fondest memories of Taylor University lacrosse have come from long weekends and road trips to away games. This weekend was no exception, with our team winning in a comeback victory 8 to 7.
The day started off at eight thirty a.m. as we left the dining commons parking lot for our four hour drive. After our Subway pit stop, we made our way to the playing field around one o-clock. For most of this year, we have experienced poor weather conditions, forcing us to practice inside and postpone two games. On Saturday, the weather was a beautiful 45 degrees and an absolutely perfect day for lacrosse.
Michigan-Dearborn struck first within the first five minutes of play. Our team was sluggish and Michigan-Dearborn was out hustling us to ground balls and executing well on the field. Another goal was scored by Michigan-Dearborn, and I could feel our confidence drop slightly. On top of our slow start, senior and starter Rex Huffman injured his knee during a ground ball. As a starting midfielder, Rex plays a large role in our offense and is a leader on our team. For him to be out of the game was a difficult thing for us to grasp. It put a large burden on our second line of midfielders to fill Rex’s role.
On top of our disappointing start, I don’t think we were ready for a much improved Michigan-Dearborn team. Although we attempt to go into every game with a mentality to play our hardest, we failed to execute what we had been practicing for so many hours. Early on in the second quarter, the Trojans made it on the board with a great goal by junior attackman Sam Wright. However, Dearborn scored two more goals to finish the first quarter up 4-1. The second quarter was no better, with Dearborn outscoring the Trojans two goals to one.
Looking back over the first half of play, there is no single part of our play that could be blamed for such a large deficit. Both our offense and defense were making key mistakes. During our halftime meeting, Coach West urged us to think over how much work we had put into the sport over the year. There was little praise during the halftime meeting, and our coaches challenged each one of us to stop looking for others to lead the team. There were no more excuses, and after some defensive adjustments, we began the second half of play down 6-2.
Although Dearborn scored the first goal of the half, we were ready to shut them out for the rest of the game. Immediately, I could feel a difference in our play. Thanks to excellent wing play by senior LSM Will Gemmel, we controlled the faceoffs and possessions as I went 11-16 at the faceoff X. A key turning point in the game occurred when freshman attackman Parker O’Leary scored his first career goal after a great split-dodge from goal line extended. Parker’s goal sparked a fire in our team that we had not had all game. Another goal from senior attackman Chris Baker brought the Trojans to within three with a score of 7-4.
Starting the fourth quarter down by three is not a position that our team wanted to be in. Coach West and Coach Patrone challenged us to remember our preparation and urged us to execute our game plan for the next fifteen minutes. I believe that a switch was turned in our team when we came out onto the field for the last quarter. The Trojans barely let Dearborn touch the ball, as we possessed for 85% of the last quarter. With goals from Sam Wright and senior midfielder Matt Witt, the game was within one with six minutes to play. After possessing the ball from the faceoff and taking good shots on offense, Chris Baker tied the game with a beautiful top shelf shot against the goalies strong side.
The game was tied but we knew that it was not over. I could Dearborn players deflate as our sideline celebrated Chris Baker’s goal. We were not going to lose that game and with two minutes left, Sam Wright found junior midfielder Nick Sato open with the game winning shot. Nick’s first goal of the season had given us the lead. With two minutes left, we burned the clock and made a key defensive play to win game with a comeback victory.
Looking back on the game, I have some key thoughts and beliefs about our victory on Saturday. First, I would argue that some of the most valuable players on a team are those who come off of the bench. You can have a select few of starters who lead the team in points, but without depth on a team, you cannot win a championship. After Rex Huffman was injured in the first quarter of play, Nick Sato was asked to fill a role that he had not done before. Also, Parker O’Leary scored his first career goal after coming off of the sideline. These are the players who give our team an advantage, and I am so excited to be a part of a team that is diversified.
Also, I would argue that our team has not even discovered our full potential. We have bits and pieces of excellence, but we are aware that if we play how we did in the fourth quarter against Dearborn all game, we would be on a different level. During our first two games, we have had our ups and downs and I believe that our team will steady out and begin to play a full four quarters of play soon enough.
All in all, our victory against Dearborn was bittersweet. We had won the game in an exciting fashion and it may have been our best comeback game during my time at Taylor. However, we are unaware of the condition of Rex’s injury, and it’s disappointing to lose such a valuable member of our team to an injury this early in the season. We will have updates regarding Rex’s condition over the next weeks to come.
Our next game is this coming Saturday March, 16th against Liberty University. The game is at home, and we would love to have you there to cheer us on against the Liberty Flames!