For the Spalding boys lacrosse team, the mere fact that they had an opportunity to play a Senior Night game in front of family and friends was a blessing after the cancellation of the 2020 season due to COVID-19.
Thanks to a dominant performance at the faceoff circle from Blake Malamphy and Trey Fleece and some timely stops from goalkeeper Jake Oliver, the Cavaliers were able to make it that much sweeter with a 15-9 win over visiting Gilman in an MIAA A Conference showdown Friday afternoon.
“It’s awesome for us to come together as a team after everything we have been through,” senior captain Andrew Calvert said. “To come out here and come together as a team was amazing, but to get that win feels even better.”
The Greyhounds (2-5) had the majority of the early possession but a couple of saves from Oliver combined with a few misses wide kept them off the board.
Later in another Gilman possession, Alex Ross had a turnover that stemmed the tide and gave the Cavaliers momentum.
Ryan Schrier cashed in a few minutes later. He dug his way towards the cage and squeaked one just over the line to give the Cavaliers (6-1) the first goal of the game.
The Cavaliers dominated the faceoff circle in the first quarter, winning all five draws and turning two of them into goals from Michael Weisshaar. First, he made a brilliant fake to buy space and then fired it into the top left corner, and on the next possession he took a pass from Race Ripley and scored from nearly the same spot.
Weisshaar finished with six goals and three assists while Ripley had a goal and two assists, Finn Kelly tallied a hat trick and Nick Guiterrez registered two goals and two helpers.
The faceoff dominance continued into the second quarter and this time it was Ripley who benefited, as he cut and weaved his way through defenders to make it 4-1.
The Greyhounds got one back from Remi Reynolds but Spalding’s faceoff dominance allowed them to continue to get more opportunities and to expand their lead. Kelly, Guiterrez and Weisshaar again all scored to push the lead to 6-2, and the Cavaliers took an 8-3 lead into the second half.
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Gilman did not win their first faceoff until there was 4:32 remaining in the first half. In total, Malamphy and Fleece won 23 of the 28 faceoffs for Spalding.
“You can’t score unless you have the ball, so that’s a very nice plus and positive that we have,” Spalding coach Brian Phipps said. “We have two guys that we can go back and forth with. The coolest part is they have this togetherness and they cheer each other on. They both have different styles but they help give us a lot and contribute to the offensive end and the defensive end.”
The Greyhounds won the opening draw of the second half and cut into the lead with a pair of quick goals but the Cavaliers never relented and kept the visitors at a distance on the scoreboard. They led 11-7 after three quarters.
With the lead at four, the Cavaliers padded their lead by doing what they had done all game, taking the opening faceoff and scoring on that possession as Weisshaar put in a rebound off of a Guiterrez shot that hit the post.
They pushed their lead to 14-7 with just under 10 minutes to go, buoyed by some big stops from Oliver anytime the Greyhounds threatened. He ended the game with 10 saves.
“Whenever we are in a tough situation, we always fall back on our fundamentals,” Oliver said. “That’s the big thing we focus on in practice and it’s always a big thing to have guys in front of me who I can trust, who are talking to each other and for me lately, just staying set, staying big, holding my ground and not trying to guess on anything. I’m trying to play reactionary goalie and that’s what I’ve been doing and that’s what worked for me today.”