UWCHLAN >> If Thursday’s league opener between visiting Unionville and Downingtown East is any indication, the 2017 Ches-Mont boys’ lacrosse season is going to be quite interesting.
The underdog Indians — playing without three key starters — gave East all it could handle in the opening half. But the lackluster start seemed to wake up the Cougars, who finally pulled away in the second half for a hard earned 12-6 triumph.
“We tell the kids that they have to show up and play four quarters,” said East head coach Todd Cliggett. “If somebody can figure out why that doesn’t happen sometimes, please let me know.”
In all, the Cougars (3-0 overall) outscored Unionville 9-3 in the second half to turn a battle into a little less stressful finish for the home team. But if you think Unionville’s first-year head coach, Duane Lawrence, was content with the outcome, think again.
“I actually think we have a good team,” he said. “We were not here to pull an upset. Downingtown East has a fine team and great tradition, but I think we can play with a lot of the upper echelon teams in this league. We just have to start believing in ourselves.”
Deadlocked at 3-3 at halftime, the Cougars quickly took command by scoring three straight goals in a three minute stretch midway through the third period. Sophomore Brian Miller gave East the lead for good on an unassisted shorthanded goal. Moments later Miller fed Grant Peden for a one-timer, and soon after that Peden found the back of the net again after forcing a turnover deep in Unionville territory.
“We talked (at halftime) about trying to step up and it showed in the second half,” said Miller, who led the way with four goals and two assists. “We played more like ourselves.
“It wasn’t the kind of start we wanted, but it was good we bounced back.”
Ahead 6-4, the Cougars closed it out with four consecutive scores early in the fourth quarter, including another by Miller (from Peden) and two from Jack Mulcahy.
“We just played harder,” Cliggett said. “We stressed playing at full-speed and when you do that, things will start to fall for you. At this level, the team that plays the hardest usually comes out on top.”
It was a different story in the first half, however, as the Indians (1-1 overall) took a pair of early one-goal leads on tallies by Jack Hoopman and Gerry Viatowski. And when East battled back to make it 3-2, Unionville called a timeout and knotted it at 3-3 when Andrew Edginton scored off a pass from Hoopman.
“Hats off to Unionville. They controlled the ball early and their goalie (Owen Rogers) made some saves,” Cliggett said.
“In our first two games, we’ve been a first-half team,” Lawrence added. “We opened a 5-1 lead against Penncrest and then had to hold on to survive that game.
“We only have one senior, so we are a little lacking in the leadership department.”
Except for a couple inconsequential goals in the final 1:39, the Indians had turnover issues and could only muster three shots on the goal in the second half. It didn’t help that starters Brian Emhof (pneumonia), Drew Lenkaitis (flu) and William Ciccarelli (suspension) missed the game.
“It’s a momentum game – an emotion game – and we kind of let it get away from us in the third quarter,” Lawrence explained. “We stopped talking on defense. We just kind of quit on defense and we started turning the ball over.”
Mulcahy and Peden finished with three goals apiece and Brian Digman added two for the Cougars. And along the way, East learned a valuable lesson.
“We have to make sure we don’t take any opponents for granted,” Miller said. “We need to prepare for every game like its (Downingtown) West or (Bishop) Shanahan. If we do that, we are going to have a good season.”
Downingtown East 12, Unionville
Unionville 1 2 1 2 – 6
Downingtown East 1 2 4 5 – 12
Unionville goals: Hoopman, Viatowski 2, Edginton, Laurence, Culyan.
Downingtown East goals: Millier 4, Mulcahy 3, Peden 3, Digman 2.
Goalie saves: Rogers (U) 12; Iacovino (DE) 5.