Sandwich junior goaltender Carson Schemenaur collected a shot on goal and quickly tossed the ball up to a Blue Knights defenseman, who passed to junior Tim Ladner in the midfield and found an open Anthony Guarino along the left side of the goal. Drawing in close, Guarino snapped a pass to the right post, where sophomore Aidan Rodgers finished off the the tic-tac-toe passing clinic by burying the ball in the net.
“That was beautiful,” Sandwich boys’ lacrosse head coach Mike McNeill said. “I think that gave them a lot of confidence.”
The goal gave the second-seeded Knights a 3-2 lead against visiting Norwood, the 15th-seed, as Sandwich went on to win 11-5 to advance out of the first round of the Division 2 South Sectional tournament on Tuesday, June 4 at DeConto Stadium.
But more than just giving Sandwich the one-goal lead, it breathed new life into the team and allowed the Knights to relax and play their game.
“I’m happy we were able to figure it out. These guys were a little jittery and came together and played as a team. A lot of our guys want to put the team on their back, but I think they realized that a team offense would win out,” McNeill said.
Although senior co-captain Charlie Chapman broke a scoreless tie with five minutes left in the first quarter, the charged-up Mustangs rode the adrenaline rush of playoff lacrosse early on, netting the equalizer with three seconds left in the first frame and scoring the first goal of the second quarter to take a 2-1 lead.
“They might’ve had us beat in the first quarter. Coach even said that at halftime,” Chapman said after the game. “I think we took over as a team over the final three quarters. That’s what mattered.”
That would be the last time the Mustangs would lead, as the Sandwich defense clamped down and the offense found its rhythm. The Knights scored six unanswered goals—scoring four in the second quarter and two in the third quarter—to take complete control of the game. Cam Lopes scored the first of his three goals to spark the rally and knot the game at two apiece. That was quickly followed by Rodger’s first goal, one of his three in the game, and Chapman and Lopes’ second goals capped a four-goal swing in a three minute span.
The offensive burst forced Norwood to call timeout and the Sandwich bench erupted with enthusiasm. “We eatin’ now, boys,” was overheard as the Knights returned to their sideline.
Sandwich took a 5-2 lead into the break at halftime and saw three players—Lopes, Chapman and Rodgers—cap hat tricks in the second half as the Knights cruised to a first-round playoff victory. Junior co-captain CJ Wiper had two goals and Ladner won all but two of the faceoffs he took. But in the eyes of McNeill, the player of the game was Schemenaur, who made 13 saves on the afternoon.
“It didn’t matter how many saves he had, because every one of his saves came at key times,” McNeill said. “That’s a lot of controlled possession. That speaks to our defensive coach, Jerome Fay, but that’s makes a difference.”
Around the state ahead of the tournament, many had picked the Knights as the team to come out of the South Sectional. Although flattered, McNeill was worried that his team may buy into the media hype—perhaps the reason for the slow start.
“I know in the tournament it could be any team that comes out. For us to be here in the two-seed, it’s hard to get that across to the players that any team can win. There are no freebies,” he said. “It’s okay for me that these guys did have a shaky first half. So I tried to use that as a learning moment. We have a lot of work to do tomorrow for being so late in the season. It’s okay things didn’t go completely smooth.”
Now the Knights (15-5) played host to 10th-seeded Bishop Feehan in the Division 2 South quarter finals. Sandwich scored an 11-9 home win against the Shamrocks on May 23.
“In the next round, when the talent gets better, we’re going to have to take all four quarters,” Chapman said.