River Hill boys lacrosse played Mt. Hebron boys lacrosse in a Howard County match-up on April 21, 2016.
It's a simple approach for the River Hill boys lacrosse team – control what you can control and take it one game at a time.
Among the things the Hawks can't control is where they landed in the new tiered scheduling format in Howard County – in the middle tier – despite reaching the 3A/2A state championship game last spring. On Thursday night, River Hill proved in an 8-6 victory at Mt. Hebron that being in the middle tier doesn't mean it isn't top-tier quality.
"I think this tier thing was created by people other than lacrosse coaches," said Hawks coach Keith Gonsouland. "We all know each other and have known each other for years and it's something that is out of our control. They wanted to make the schedule like they make the schedule and at the end of the day we'll play the games and we'll do what we need to do to prepare."
That preparation paid off in a hurry for the Hawks, as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead through the first 20 minutes of game action in a rematch of last year's 3A/2A South regional championship game. Jake Friedman scored a game-high four goals, but both coaches said the key to the contest was on the face-offs. Derek Isaac won 16 of the 18 draws to allow River Hill to maintain possession the majority of the game.
"River Hill dominated face-offs and time of possession and they finished their plays better than we did," said Vikings coach Mike McCarthy, who said Isaac was the best face-off guy his team has played this season. "... It was a back-breaker because for them it was make-it take-it, and for us it was drop back and play defense again and try to stop them and get a possession if they turn it over. He was fantastic."
The Hawks started off strong and made it clear early that they wanted to make conditioning a factor. McCarthy said the Hawks' team speed was also undoubtedly a difference-maker.
"You can't play lacrosse when you're tired," said Gonsouland, who added that conditioning is a key for his team's success. "It's no fun playing tired and you can't do it. ... It's fun playing lacrosse when you're in shape."
Friedman scored the first goal of the game 3 minutes, 10 seconds into the first quarter on a rip from about 15 yards out, and then he put his team up 2-0 on an unassisted strike 1:06 into the second quarter.
Brendan McKenna scored the first of his two goals four minutes later on a fast break and Danny Isaac's goal pushed the lead to 4-0 with 4:33 left in the half.
"We were playing well. We made a run and I knew they were going to make one too," Gonsouland said. "They're a really good team, especially defensively. ... We made our run and we were ready for their run."
Jake Edmonson's goal put Mt. Hebron on the board 1:37 before the break, but just when it seemed Mt. Hebron had momentum heading into the second half Friedman completed his hat trick with 3:00 left in the third quarter to push River Hill's lead back to four at 5-1.
Then Mt. Hebron made its run. Kyle Watts and Bryce Brookhart scored back-to-back goals with 1:59 and :02.8, respectively, left on the clock to cut the Hawks' lead to 5-3 heading into the fourth.
"We weren't throwing the ball out of bounds and we shot the ball on goal," McCarthy said. "If we take care of the ball we're going to get good shots, and we have not been doing that consistently and we didn't today except for two quarters. We made a nice run and even during that run we had plenty of chances that we didn't execute."
Brookhart answered the bell once again and netted the first goal of the fourth, but River Hill picked up the pace of play and got back to its game. McKenna and Travis Remson scored back-to-back goals midway through the fourth, and after Brookhart scored his third goal of the game, Friedman's fourth goal 14 seconds later gave the Hawks an 8-5 advatnage with 4:40 remaining.
"We battled back and had a couple opportunities to tie it and every time we made a run they answered," McCarthy said "... We didn't execute well enough to win."
Kyle Watts had an incredible individual effort and dodged about four defenders in the final minute to score his second goal of the game, but ultimately it was too little too late for the Vikings, who have lost two straight games after a 7-1 start to the season.
"We've got to put in some more work," McCarthy said. "We're flipping a lot of lineups and moving guys in and out of the games to see what fits, and with one day to prepare between games it doesn't give us time to get some continuity. ... We'll just keep working.
"I think frustration has built for us. The kids are starting to feel the pressure of not performing and we didn't execute early and they I think they tightened up even more. When you're tight you don't execute."
With the win River Hill is the lone unbeaten team left in county play at 7-0 and has won six straight games, all against county opponents. Gonsouland knows his team's schedule is about to heat up with Howard and Glenelg up next on the docket, but said if his guys can continue to control the things they can control that the sky is the limit.
"One thing we can always control is our attitude and our actions. Those are the two things we can always control," he said. "So even if we're having a bad day ... we can keep hustling. We can't control if (Mt. Hebron goalie) Casey (DuBois) is going to make saves, we can't control if they're players are going to make plays. We just have to stay positive and control those two things and that's what we did today. We never got down."
River Hill (7-0 county, 8-2 overall) 8, Mt. Hebron (3-1, 7-3) 6
Assists: A – Talbott Gottwalls 2, Barilla, Noah Foster; MR – Bladen Miller 2
Saves: A – Darren Kasoff 11; MR – Colin Kelley 1
Halftime: 3-1, Atholton
Centennial (4-3, 4-5) 15, Wilde Lake (2-2, 6-4) 10
Goals: C – Jaylen DeCarlo 3, Tommy Kolp 3, Thomas Thurmond 3, Jeremy Wilson 2, Taran Thielemann, Charlie Hockersmith, Eli Ross, Josiah Gavlin; WL – Ryan Tiffey 4, Patrick Riley 2, Andrew Tiffey 2, Rodger Stewart, Ben Briguglio
Assists: C – Wilson 6, Decarlo; WL – R. Tiffey 3
Saves: C – Jason Simpson 10, Dougie Barnes 2; WL – Daniel Joseph 17
Halftime: 10-1, Centennial
Reservoir (1-6, 3-7) 14, Long Reach (0-4, 0-7) 1
Goals: Re – Max Zester 3, Logan Mitchell 3, Jessie Ekstrom 1, Zack Romer 2, Tyler Reiff, Josh Winn, Patrick Raymond, Brian Ricketts, Campbell; LR – Will Parham
Assists: Re – Ekstrom 4, Romer 2, Zester, Mitchell, Reiff; LR – N/A