By Kevin Eickman
Time was winding down and the issue was very much in doubt. In a game that had went back and forth the entire evening, the teams were tied at 12 as the game approached its final minute. The Buccaneers had the ball and were looking to take the lead. Milford senior Jon Gaglione drove down the center of the lane towards the Delmar goal. In response the Wildcat defense collapsed o him, a decision that would prove fatal.
Gaglione spotted fellow junior Alex Herka standing unguarded on the right side of the Wildcat net. The pass from Gaglione was crisp and the shot by Herka was blazed into the lower left hand corner of the net. There was never any doubt as Milford scored the 13th and final goal of the match on Herka’s the sixth goal of the contest.
The goal was the sixth by Herka on an evening and sealed a season opening victory against a tough divisional opponent. “I saw the team playing together, a lot of pressure but we held it together,” Herka stated. “It was all coach really, he had the perfect play book and we just went out there and did our role and it just worked out.”
The game was an up and down affair with Delmar jumping out quickly to a 2-o lead early in the first quarter, even though Milford enjoyed an advantage in possession. With Milford missing on a few key passes the slightest bit of doubt appeared to creep into the Buccaneers. It was Herka who got the ball rolling as he scored Milford’s first goal of the match with 1:48 remaining in the first quarter. The point was a milestone for Herka as it was his 100th point as a Buccaneer.
“At that point in the game I really wasn’t thinking about my 100th point, I was just worried about getting back into the game,” Herka said. “I knew I was sitting on 99, I wish I could have done it sooner but it was good.”
Milford had a little uncertainty between the pipes as junior Gaij Copes got his first start ever as a keeper. This presented the first time under coach Blake Faulkner’s tenor that he did not have a known entity in goal. Copes is not new to Lacrosse, but made the switch from mid-fielder to keeper this year. The learning curb has been steep but the progress has been steady for him.
“First time playing goalie and starting at varsity, so we put a lot of pressure on him and he did good. He really did good, I was proud, I was happy for him,” Faulkner continued.
While the game may have been decided in the fourth quarter, it was a pair of key plays in the final 1:30 of the first half that kept Milford in the contest and gave them confidence going forward. Trailing 6-3 senior Jordan Passwaters closed the gap to 6-4 with a solid effort. It was the next possession by Delmar however that really breathed life into the Buccaneers. A Wildcat player broke past the Milford defense and headed towards goal. Gaglione broke back and forced a turnover. Picking up the ball he let go with a 40 yard pass to Herka who passed it to junior Charles Hayes, who turned what had initially looked like a three goal deficit into Milford trailing just 6-5 with 17 seconds remaining in the half.
“It took him a little while to settle in tonight, but that was just typical Jon-Jon, not giving up on a player.”
As with any early season game, mistakes are to be expected. Perhaps the most glaring shortcoming for the Buccaneers was in man up situations scoring on just one chance. “We really were trying a few different things tonight. Quite honestly it is something we have not spent a lot of time on but it is something we will build on during the season, Faulkner said.
Milford’s next home game will be this Wednesday at 7 pm against Lake Forest.
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