It was close at the end, but undefeated Howard boys lacrosse collected the 10-4 victory against visiting Reservoir Saturday, punching its ticket to the 4A/3A North Section I final.
John Travisano and Scott Bruner each netted three goals, and Cody Ford added two more, but it was goalie Bryan Mauser’s play in the cage that allowed the Lions (11-0, 15-0) to feel comfortable, even as the Gators (6-5, 8-7) made their run in the fourth quarter.
“He’s been playing well all year. He definitely kept the score where we would have liked it early on,” Howard coach Jimmy Creighton said. “(Reservoir) had some decent looks. They have some good athletes and they can get to the goal. They proved that.”
The two teams first met March 28, when Howard completed the 12-0 shutout victory. In the first 12 minutes of Saturday’s game, it looked as though a repeat performance was in the works.
Within the first 69 seconds of the game, Leo Sementilli, Bruner and Travisano all connected for scores. Minutes later, Bruner, Travisano and Ford added three more, giving the home team a six-goal advantage.
Adversely, the Gators failed to record a shot until the 35-second mark of the first quarter.
“Against a good team, every possession is huge,” Reservoir coach Bryan Cole said. “I think we got rattled there in the beginning, and somewhere there after we found our composure.”
A theme that remained throughout the course of the contest was the Lions’ domination from the faceoff. Mauser pointed to Travisano, who only lost one chance at midfield in 48 minutes, as one of the main reasons why the team has had such success on runs.
“It all starts at the faceoff,” he said. “John Trav(isano) has been doing it all year. He’s been the most consistent player on the field for us.”
Mauser also credited the defense, which made it easier for the goalie early on.
In the second quarter, the visitors buckled down, taking the burden of score control off goalie Trent Teodori – who had 15 saves in the first half, and 18 overall.
On the other side of the field, Mauser was patrolling his own goal with efficiency as well. Reservoir shooters pelted seven shots at the senior in that time, including two point-blank chances from Austin Mitchell that were both blocked.
Though rare for the high-scoring Lions, the second quarter ended just as it began, with six goals on the board.
In the third period, Eric Schroeder, Bruner and Ford all got Howard out of its scoring slump, furthering the lead to nine goals.
The Gators chance came in the fourth quarter, when Mitchell netted a pair of goals, along with Hans Wicklein and Cole Evans, setting up a four-goal unanswered run for the visitors.
“At the end there, it was sloppy. We got complacent I think,” Mauser said. “We felt like we had the game in hand, and we sleepwalked all over the field.”
The Lions held onto the ball for the better part of the last two minutes, walking away with a victory that, at one point, was all but certain to be a shutout.
“I wouldn’t say it concerns me, but there’s definitely some things we need to fix, and fix quickly,” Creighton said. “Facing off and limiting transition opportunities is going to be huge. In the six-on-six game, we want to be as patient as possible.”
While Cole said the loss was disappointing, he took solace in his team’s attitude and play during the final minutes of the game.
“Obviously I would wish for a different result,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I’ll stand with them…they’re competitors.”
Howard will play defending state champion Westminster Monday at 7 p.m.
Howard 10, Reservoir 4
Goals: H – John Travisano (3), Scott Bruner (3), Cody Ford (2), Leo Sementilli, Eric Schroeder; Re – Austin Mitchell (2), Cole Evans, Hans Wicklein.
Assists: H – Bruner, Brad Zulick, Nolan Dunnigan; Re – Evans (2).
Saves: H – Bryan Mauser 12; Re – Trent Teodori 18.
Half: 6-0, Lions.