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Commodore boys’ lax team rides surge of intensity to overwhelm Otters

BRANDON — Intensity was the word after Saturday’s Division III high school boys’ lacrosse game at Otter Valley, in which visiting Vergennes took charge after a 5-5 first half to win, 13-7.
VUHS coach Ed Cook said the Commodores came out of the break ready to play, and that’s why they outscored OV, 6-0, in the third period.
“We talked at halftime about coming out with intensity. Our defense was incredible in the second half,” Cook said.
Meanwhile, OV coach Jesse Milliman said his Otters came out flat after a solid first half, something that has been a trend.
“It’s been the story of our season, unfortunately. Hats off to them. They came out with intensity in the second half, and we came out just the opposite,” Milliman said. “We hustled hard and played good defense in the first half, and I don’t know what I need to do better as a coach to keep them coming out fired up in the second half.”
To be fair to the Otters, they were without defenders Jove Bautista and Trevor Lear due to a scheduling conflicts and an injury, midfielder Collin Parker is hurt, and attacker Keenan Pratt left with an injury in the second quarter.
The lone regular defender, Jared Felkl, was joined by junior Sean Martin and freshman Timothy Kittler, and they held their own for a half.
“That stings, particularly on defense, not having those guys,” Milliman said. “Our new guys came in and stepped it up in the first half, but unfortunately weren’t able to execute in the second half. But that’s on me. I’ve got to have them prepared.”
OV started strong, with middie Will Ross and attacker Colton Leno scoring in the first 2:28 to make it 2-0. By the end of the quarter it was 3-3, with VUHS goals from Tyler Crowningshield, Brett Woods and Max Ratti-Bicknell, with two assists from Tyler Kepes and one from Ratti-Bicknell. Erik Sherman, from Leno, also scored for OV.
In the second quarter OV scored early on when Tyson Cram took a feed from Ross and bounced a shot home from the right side. Crowningshield tied the game when his shot deflected off a defender past first-half OV goalie Alec Stevens (six saves). Ratti-Bicknell made it 5-4, VUHS, with a feed from Crowningshield. At 0:53, Leno whipped a shot home from long range, and it was 5-5 at the break.
Then the roof fell in in the third quarter, Crowningshield scored three times and assisting two goals in the period (he finished with seven goals and four assists), and the other goals came from Woods, Kepes and Ratti-Bicknell. Two came after OV passes were picked off on second-half goalie Jon McKeighan’s doorstep.
Crowningshield said the Commodores wanted to finish strong, especially after playing a poor second half in a 13-8 loss the day before to Milton.
“Yesterday we didn’t capitalize on all of our opportunities, and today we came out a little slow, but the second half was definitely a plus,” Crowningshield said.
In the final period, Leno and Eugair each scored and assisted each other, while Crowningshield added two more scores, one assisted by Woods. McKeighan made seven second-half saves, while Broc Clark was credited with 17 for VUHS.
Some of Clark’s saves were not challenging, thanks to VUHS defenders Jeb Hodsden, Jack Eisenhower and Hunter Mayshak and long-stick middies Brad Sturtevant and Lathrop Brownell.
“Our defense is actually our strong suit,” Crowningshield said.
The 4-2 Commodores, in the top four in the D-III standings, hope to make a playoff run. Asked what they need to do so, the I-word cropped up again.
“What we need to do is just make solid passes and have more intensity, get all of team on the same page,” Crowningshield said. “We’re definitely getting better.”
 Cook said he would like to bottle the second half.
 “It’s intensity in practice. It’s playing as a team, not caring who scores,” he said.
 Milliman’s 1-6 team is improved from past seasons, but has not been rewarded with victories. He hopes that will come.
“We’ve just got to put it all together,” Milliman said. “They’ve got to learn how to win. I can’t do it for them. I can’t teach them how to expect to win. And that’s the biggest thing, the mentality. We’ll keep fighting and working hard. These are great kids, and they deserve to win, and that’s what I want for them.”

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