By Kevin Eickman
The Milford lacrosse team is entering uncharted territory these days. For the first time in the program’s history, the Buccaneers are attempting to qualify for the DIAA tournament. Starting with this past Friday’s game against William Penn, every game becomes more meaningful. No longer are they just playing out the string, they are playing to make history.
Friday’s game started pretty poorly for Milford as they allowed two quick goals to fall behind 2-0 with just 1:17 gone in the first period. What followed was an indication of just how far this Buccaneer team has come in coach Joe Vavala’s four years. Milford quickly regained their composure and began to impose their will on the visiting Colonials.
Sophomore Mark Henderson started the scoring for Milford as he let fly with a blistering shot past the Colonials keeper with 9:08 left in the first quarter. The goal by Henderson would be the start of Milford dominance that would last for the entire first half. Time after time Milford would keep Penn pinned in their own end and there was little the Colonials could do to stop the Bucs. Senior Evan Becker would tie the match with 4:29 left in the first.
Following the equalizer, Milford went a man down as they committed a penalty. The Buccaneers were so dominant at this stage of the game, that they actually had the only scoring chance during the penalty. After killing off another penalty, Milford would take the lead for good as junior Zach Heesh scored the go ahead goal with 20 seconds left in the first. Milford was not done with their first quarter scoring however, as they scored just 12 seconds later to double their advantage to 4-2. Milford continued to control the game in the second quarter as they netted six goals on their way to a 10-4 halftime lead.
For all the things that Milford did right in the first half, there were definitely some poor moments in the second half. Milford committed some silly penalties and was never really able to put the Colonials away. “I was kind of disappointed in our second half,” Vavala commented. “We let them posses the ball way too much.”
With Penn gaining advantage in possession, a heavy burden fell upon the Milford defense. Two men in the back who stood out for Milford were junior defensive pole Ben Mitzel and sophomore keeper Clay Stevenson. Every time it looked as if Penn would get back into the game, one of them would step up and make a play. Vavala was impressed with how well the duo played when the pressure was on. “Ben and Clay were huge tonight, the two of them have been fantastic all season and they came through again for us,” Vavala stated.
Milford would eventually earn a 12-7 victory and improve their record to 9-2. For Becker the fact that Milford has a winning record is quite an accomplishment, he does however believe there is lots of work ahead of them. “It’s nice to have a winning record, but our goal is to make the tournament,” he stated.
With games at Caravel (8-2) and Delmar (7-3) before they host Polytech (6-4) Friday at 7:30, Milford will be facing their toughest week of the year with a tournament birth on the line. “This is a big week for us coming up,” Vavala stated. “It’s a chance for us to take the next step and make the playoffs.”