By TJ Millman
For the third time in the last four years, Milford Lacrosse sits at the top of the Henlopen Southern Conference. The Bucs have gone 8-0 so far in the South, 9-2 on the year, and clinched the division this past Friday with a narrow 13-12 win over rival Lake Forest. Sophomores Conor Christie and Alex Herka led Milford in scoring with 4 goals each, and freshman Landan Hajek played one of his most impressive games of the year thus far, scoring a goal and leading the Bucs with 3 assists.
“Three titles in 4 years is a testament to our program and our kids. It says something about how hard they work to get where they are. We aren’t sneaking up on anyone anymore. Our guys have to earn it ever year. We expect to win the South at this point. The Henlopen South is our division, and it’s ours to decide every year,” Milford Lacrosse Head Coach Blake Faulkner said.
Milford started out slow, as they have most of the year, and fell behind early in the first quarter 4-2. Coach Faulkner lit a fire under his team between quarters, and the Bucs came out firing in the second. Milford outscored the Spartans by a score of 6-1 in the second quarter, and went into halftime with an 8-5 lead. Milford has been plagued by inconsistency this year, and Coach Faulkner is still working on solving the issue.
“I wish I had an answer to it. We’ve tried a lot of different things at practice and in games, but hopefully we’re hitting a groove. Our last few games have been getting better, barring a few moments tonight, and I think we’re starting to get it figured out. We just need to rest up for our game Monday against a tough Poly team,” Faulkner said.
The Bucs struggled again with getting started and played much of the third quarter in the defensive end of the field. The defense started strong, but tired out due to a slew of fast turnovers from Milford’s offense, and the Spartans were able to score 5 in the third quarter. Milford added two goals of their own, and the third quarter ended in a 10-10 tie.
Each team scored to start the fourth quarter, and at 11-11 with under 8 minutes left, every possession was crucial. Milford freshman Aaron Sollie blew by his defender to score the go-ahead goal and give the Bucs a 12-11 lead. One more goal from Christie gave the Bucs a 2 goal lead, a cushion that turned out essential. As the game was winding down, Milford drew a two-minute un-releasable penalty, as well as a second penalty on Coach Faulkner for protesting a missed call.
“Our defense gets a lot of criticism at times, but we’ve had to rely on them a lot this year. They are a young group, still learning to play together, and I thought they played great for us down that stretch. They covered for me and made up for my mistake,” Faulkner said.
The Bucs were left in a 6 on 4 situation in their own defensive end, and it was up to senior goalie Shane Gaglione and the defense to pull out the win. Lake Forest senior Carter Kenton scored one of his 6 goals on the day, bringing the Spartans within 1, but Gaglione and the defense held strong over the final seconds. Gaglione finished the game with 24 saves, each as important as the last when a game is decided by 1, and made multiple 1-on-1 stops throughout the game.
“We have a history of making things exciting as a team, though that’s not always a good thing for a goalie, but we managed to get ourselves out of a surprising deficit to come back and get another conference title. When I’m in those situations at the end of games, I just have to let my mind go blank and stare the ball into my stick. It helps that our defense has grown a lot this year. I trust them a lot more than I did at the beginning of the year, and I know I can rely on them to have my back,” Gaglione said.
This game was closer than any Milford and Lake Forest have had before, and Coach Faulkner credited the Spartans and Head Coach Brandon Savage on the growing Spartans Lacrosse Program.
“Lake always plays us tough on the second game of the year. They are continuing to get better, and their talent level is growing. They have been getting better and better each year, and they always give us their best punch. It’s probably a mixture of growing youth programs and Brandon (Savage) coaching them up,” Faulkner said.
Milford finishes the season with their last 3 games on the road, with the next one coming on Wednesday, May 9 at Indian River. The game starts at 5:30 PM.
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