Comeback comes up short as CVU wins 7th straight title
BURLINGTON — Down by six goals early in the fourth quarter, many may have thought that the Division I boys lacrosse championship was a foregone conclusion.
Champlain Valley, the six-time defending champions, would finish off another title for long-time coach Dave Trevithick and Burr and Burton, in its first time challenging for the D-I crown, would acquiesce to the Redhawk coronation.
Nobody told BBA, and the Bulldogs had a furious comeback in the final minutes, but time ran out as CVU won their seventh straight championship in a 15-13 win at UVM's Virtue Field on Saturday.
"There were points in the game when we could have had a better five minutes, but we're playing an outstanding team that's extremely well coached. Maybe a few more minutes would have made a difference," said Burr and Burton coach Tom Grabher. "I'm very proud of the boys for getting here to compete in the finals. I'm disappointed that was lost, but not disappointed in them. They kept their character and moral compass in the right direction through this season, and I'm proud of how they conducted themselves on and off the field."
Trailing 9-4 at the break and 12-5 with five minutes remaining in the third, Burr and Burton started to make some headway against a tough, grinding CVU defense.
BBA scored the next three goals in less than two minutes. Logan Morgan scored off a pass from Jake Baker, then shorthanded after Ryan Nolan was sent off with a penalty, long-stick midfielder Steven Schmitt picked up a groundball, got into the offensive zone and rifled one past CVU goalie Bobby Spencer, cutting the lead to 12-7. Thirty seconds later, after a win at the faceoff X, Logan Sands found paydirt off a feed from Baker to make it 12-8.
"We talked about resiliency before the game and we never gave up, each person left it on the field," said Baker, a senior captain. "We kept fighting, even when we got down. We've been in that situation, where we've had to score three or four goals in a row. We don't feel we're ever out of it."
With the momentum BBA's way, CVU took a penalty, but as they have done throughout the season, they persevered and 14 seconds after Sands' tally, the RedHawks' Noah Martin, another long-pole, stopped the run with a short-handed score.
In the fourth, Martin's second goal gave CVU a 15-9 lead with 9:22 left, but Burr and Burton wasn't done. Egan Schmitt scored 30 seconds later to cut the lead to 15-10, and after a penalty, Morgan found the back of the cage off an assist from Matt Grabher to make it 15-11.
Two minutes later, Baker's effort was rewarded. Spencer stopped the first try, but the rebound came back to BBA and Baker was true the second time cutting the lead to three with 4:26 to go.
"The first game we played them [a 13-12 CVU victory], we had a comeback like this, but it's not the gameplan," Grabher said. "They have very good shooters with very good shots and did an excellent job in the midfield, coming up with the majority of possession."
Trevithick said he felt his team start to make some mental mistakes as the game wound down.
"They were taking advantage, so we wanted to slow the ball down, not [let BBA] dictate the pace," Trevithick said. "We knew the guys were tired, but it's about being mentally tough in those situations."
CVU won the next faceoff and tried to stall with the lead, the tactic working as time ticked away from the Bulldogs. Egan Schmitt scored with 30.5 seconds left to make it 15-13, and a win on the next faceoff made things interesting, but a shot went off the post and CVU rode out the final seconds to win title No. 7 in a row.
"It's the first time we've been here and we talked about not being out of it, even down four or five goals," Grabher said. "We tweaked a couple things on offense and had a mindset of winning the ground balls and getting more possessions."
Baker and Egan Schmitt each had four goals, Baker also added three assists and Schmitt one. Morgan was the other BBA player with multiple goals, tallying twice. Ian Anglum, Steven Schmitt and Sands all had single goals. Matt Grabher had one assist.
For CVU, Gorman, Sturim and Schaefer all scored three times, followed by Martin and Leonard with two each. Nate Cuttitta and James Bernicke each added single tallies, Bernicke also had three assists and Schaefer and Leonard each had two helpers. Gorman added an assist as well.
Things started well for BBA, with Baker finding the back of the net about two minutes in for the early advantage. CVU then took control for the next few minutes, scoring five straight goals, a pair of tallies for Gorman and singles by Sturim, Leonard and Schaefer for a 5-1 lead. BBA cut the lead back to two on Anglum's goal, but running the end-of-period offense perfectly, Schaefer beat the first quarter buzzer to give the RedHawks a 6-3 lead after the opening 12 minutes. The defenses were on display, no one scoring for the final 7:31 of the half after a goal from Cuttitta.
In goal, Jack Morrison, a freshman, made 11 stops, while Spencer had 14 for CVU.
"Jack can make some tremendous saves, and playing in the Division I final as a freshman, that's a lot of pressure for a kid playing youth league at this time a year ago. He's been fantastic all year and has lots of potential, games like this will help his game and help us going forward," Grabher said.
For CVU, it's about continuing the tradition of a championship program.
"It's nice to end the season this way, but at the end of the day, we'll celebrate this and get excited for next year," Trevithick said.
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