As the No. 15 seed in Class L, Hall hosted No. 18 seed Westhill of Stamford Friday in the qualifying round of the Class L boys lacrosse tournament.
By Paul Palmer
Second year Hall boys lacrosse head coach Jerimee Moses says he’s in it for the long run and it’s all about getting better each year. His Titans did just that Friday when they won their CIAC Class L Tournament qualifying game 12-10 over Westhill.
Hall lost in the same round one season ago. “We want to get better every day, every game, every year. It’s not a one- or two-year thing for me. This is what I had in mind,” Moses said after the win.
Hall (8-9) got four goals from Grant Kanaga, and three each from Bode Smith and Vince Sullivan in the victory. Kanaga opened the scoring on a pass from Smith just 48 seconds into the game. Fifty seconds later it was Sullivan carrying the ball across the back of the cage and cutting past his defender to get off the shot and goal. At 6:21, Kanaga made it 3-0 when he raced about 15 yards toward the goal and beat Westhill goalie Thomas Waterbury.
The Vikings regrouped and went on a four goal run, aided by a series of penalties by Hall, to make it a 4-3 Westhill lead after the first. “We were sticking to what was working – playing fast, then the penalties deterred us,” Hall’s Moses said of the opening quarter.
The second quarter had little flow from the first half as each team racked up multiple penalties – but the two goalies were sharp. With Hall a man up for 90 seconds, 2:20 into the second, Waterbury had a big save on Sullivan, and at the other end of the field it was Hall goalie CJ Cohen coming up with the key save for the Titans.
Smith had a great scoring opportunity when he faked a shot, and then fired high over the crossbar. Sullivan had his chance with a deflect off a Westhill defender while Hall was on the man advantage. With 5:14 remaining in the second, Kanaga used his speed and skills to tie things up at 4. He began a dodge by going right, then spun left only to be cut off by a defender, he then went back left and right again to get a space of daylight that he turned into a goal. Three minutes later Thomas Finley found Sullivan about 25 yards from the goal, sent a pass across, and Sullivan rocketed into the lower part of the net and Hall was back on top at 5-4.
With less than 90 seconds to play in in second, Ben Gerken increased the Hall lead when he took a pass, moved to the right, and ripped in the goal. Then with 35 seconds to go, Smith picked up another tally when he faked his first shot, then scored on the second.
But the Vikings were not done. When they won the ensuing faceoff and Anthony Corelli beat Cohen with just 16 seconds to play and that was all the scoring in the opening half as Hall held the 7-5 lead.
Westhill opened the second half a man up for 30 seconds as Hall was called for a trip at the horn to end the first 24 minutes of play. The Titans killed it off and at 10:42 Alex Kowalsky made a long run down field with the ball and found Ford Gillespie for the even-strength goal. Once again, Westhill responded and this time it was Tyrone Hollar scoring from right in front of the goal on a great assist from Corelli.
Kanaga would pick up his fourth of the game at 8:11 when he started his run on the far side of the field, went behind the cage with a defender on him, turned the corner, and dodged past the defender to make it 9-6. Two minutes later Kanaga ran the same play, but when two defenders crashed down on him as he came around the cage, he fired a pass to Smith who was unguarded in front of the goal and scored Hall’s 10th on the day.
Sullivan would pick up the Titans’ next goal rolling off a pick from Connor Russell, but with just 51 seconds to play in the third, Connor Robinson brought Westhill back to within three. Using a Hall defenseman as a screen he fired a high shot that Cohen never saw until it was too late. Twenty seconds later it was the junior Smith using a huge deke to get Waterbury off his feet and allow him to score. Alone in front with the ball, Smith faked shooting high, and when Waterbury left his feet, Smith tossed in the low shot into an empty net.
Hall opened the final period of play with good momentum. Kowalsky shut down then knocked down Hollar, forcing a turnover in the Hall defensive zone. Kanaga would clank a shot off the post and then Waterbury came up with a big time save on Russell, all in the first five minutes. With three minutes to play, Hall held a 12-8 lead and Westhill was out of timeouts.
The Vikings would strike twice in a span of 44 seconds with the last one coming with 1:08 to go. Westhill was on the attack again with 30 to play, but an errant pass sent the ball out of the attacking zone and ended the Vikings’ hopes.
One of the unsung heroes in the game for Hall was senior long stick Hudson Hollander. His work at both ends of the field shut down the Westhill attack and pushed the Hall counterattack all game long. “It feels really good to win,” he said. “We have a really good group of seniors here.”
Smith echoed those sentiments. “We knew we had to come out with energy and firing the ball.”
Up next for Hall is a trip to meet No. 2 seed Staples on Wednesday. If Hall is to pull off the upset, Moses said they just need to keep doing what they are doing. “Something clicked with these guys about two weeks ago,” Moses said. “We do it as a team, and everyone realizes we need to do it as a group.”
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