By John Goralski
Kevin Cop scored twice in the first four minutes of the game. On Saturday, April 6, Southington scored seven times before Westhill finally tallied, and Cop had touched every Southington score.
Coach Ron Chase was a little concerned about how his team would come out in their second contest after meeting a goal that had been their sole focus in the preseason. Cop helped erase all his doubts.
“It’s tough to come out after a big win without lapsing. We call that the Big Game Hangover. We really wanted to make sure that it didn’t happen today, and it didn’t,” said Chase. “I’m happy with the way that these kids are playing. I’m happy with the way that they’ve been taking it upon themselves every day to get better at practice, and it’s been an all-around effort. That’s been great to see, but we’re only two games in. We’ve got a lot of lacrosse to play.”
The Knights came out swinging in 2013 with a pair of lopsided victories that showcased Southington’s steel curtain defense and an emerging offensive threat. On opening day, the boys rallied to an 8-1 lead at the half. Three days later, they entered the break with a 9-1 lead.
Could they score? Would the defense be as good as last season? Those are the questions that plagued the preseason practices. At least for now, those questions have been answered.
“I’m not satisfied, but I’m happy. We still have a lot to work on,” said Chase. “We had two games where the first half was fantastic, but we let up in the second half. That can’t happen. We were really lucky in the fourth quarter against Cheshire with eight penalties, but our guys were able to figure things out to come out with a win. The same thing happened today. Just like that, we went up 9-0, but we found ourselves in the penalty box four or five times in a row. That’s going to hurt us. We just happened to play it out and get the win, but down the road that might not happen.”
If that sounds severe, it’s not. Chase is working hard to lift the confidence of his up-and-coming team. With their success in the opening week, it’s not hard to see why. For weeks, the boys have been focused on winning opening day, and Southington broke a seven-game losing streak against the Rams with an 11-7 win on opening day.
Cop led the way with three goals and an assist, but Southington’s offense was far from one-dimensional. Jared Florian scored twice with two assists. Will Thompson and Jared DeFeo scored twice. Tom Gallagher and Alexander Jamele both scored. Joe Gambardella, Nick Terry, and Gallagher (2) earned assists.
“The first two weeks of our preseason, our focus was beating Cheshire. In years past, it’s always been our goal to make it to the playoffs. Our goal now is to win our next game,” said Chase. “It’s a great win, but we really can’t put too much emphasis on it.”
That’s why Saturday’s game was so important. A loss could have ended the early momentum before it got started. Instead, Southington rallied to a 2-0 record with a 12-3 win over Westhill.
Cop rallied for five goals and three assists. Florian and Gallagher scored two goals apiece. Jamele, DeFeo, and Thompson scored goals for the Knights, and everyone that scored had at least one assist.
“Everyone is having a hand in it so far. Look at the score book. We’ve been getting five or six guys scoring goals and all of our goals are assisted,” said Chase. “That really shows the kind of team that we’re starting to evolve into.”
Defensively, the Knights have picked up where they left off, holding both opponents to just one score in the opening half. Brian Mahon collected 16 saves to get the Cheshire win, and anchored the defense with six saves against Westhill before turning the net over to Dan Saucier (2 saves).
“We knew that our defense was going to be a strength, but what makes me most pleased is that we scored in double digits in two games,” said Chase. “We’re no longer that run-and-gun team like we’ve been in the past because we really don’t have those outside shooters, but we’ve been very good at finishing the ball inside. All of our goals are coming from inside 10 yards, and that’s fantastic. That’s what we’ve been working on.”
Before the Cheshire victory, Ron Chase named captains for the 2013 spring season. Junior attackman Kevin Cop will join senior co-captains Tom Gallagher and Nick Terry as Southington’s leaders on the field.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@southingtonobserver. com.