By Kevin Eickman
Since the arrival of former coach Joe Vavala, the Milford lacrosse team has been a steadily improving group. With Vavala moving on and Blake Faulkner taking the reigns, there were a large number of questions that needed to be answered. This past Friday a few of those questions got answered as the visiting Smyrna Eagles tested Milford in more ways than one.
It was obvious early on that this was going to be a physical game, the type of game that may have been a Milford trademark five years ago but far from the norm recently. With each passing possession, the hitting became more intense and it almost looked as if the Bucs were playing right into the hands of their opponents. “This was a real hard fought game, we knew that Smyrna was going to come in here and present a real physical challenge to us,” Faulkner stated.
The teams entered the half tied at two and when the second half began it looked as if Milford might begin to take quick control of the game as senior Zachary Heesh swept in from around goal and scored just 30 seconds into the half.
The lead was short lived however, as Smyrna would equalize just a minute later. The Bucs were quick to answer as senior Mat Viramontes darted in off the right side and put a blistering shot in the upper left side of the Smyrna net.
While they may have been ahead 4-3, Milford was unable to shake Smyrna. Midway through the third quarter, it looked as if disaster had struck when a Milford play was given a two minute, non-releasable penalty. Luckily for Milford, standing tall in the goal was junior Clay Stevenson. Stevenson would end up turning back 17 shots on the evening. He knew that he would have to be strong to keep Milford in the game. “I knew it was a big spot in the game and understood that I had to step up,” Stevenson said. “It’s about everyone doing there job, I just did mine.”
While Milford was able to slow down Smyrna, they were unable to stop them. Early in the fourth quarter Smyrna was able to tie it up. With the teams tied at five, it was time for the Buccaneers to step up. The response was impressive. Passes finally began to look crisp and on target, the movement began to look fluid and with purpose. “We are a young team and it took a while for us to get comfortable tonight,” commented Faulkner. “This is something we are going to have to work on as the season goes on.”
Milford would go ahead for good as senior Ring Lardner scored his only goal of the night, letting go a blistering shot from about 20 yards out. Milford was able to extend the lead to 7-5 as sophomore Dallas Rhodes would score the games final tally. Working free from around the far side of the net, Rhodes was the beneficiary of a fantastic pic set by Lardner. On the play Lardner held his ground allowing Rhodes to work free. The goal would be the final of the match as Milford was able to shut down the Eagles over the final eight minutes as they secured the victory.
Milford is off to a 3-0 start with victories against Red Lion Christian and Lake Forest. Their next three games will be on the road and against much tougher competition. Two of those games will be against Henlopen South rivals Indian River and Delmar, teams that Milford hopes to challenge for the Southern title.