During the first four games of the season, Riverside Military lacrosse coach Alan Tallman had been frustrated with his team’s man-up offense.
His irritation even spilled over into the first half of Thursday night’s contest against Archer. After coming away empty-handed in their first man-up situation, the Eagles committed an unforced turnover near the start of their second opportunity that eventually led to a Tigers goal.
But Riverside Military reversed that troubling trend when it mattered most.
The Eagles scored their final two goals with an extra man on the field to hold off Archer for a 10-7 win at Maginnis Field in Gainesville. After toughing out a physical, back-and-forth game, the clutch scores gave Riverside Military (4-1) enough breathing room down the stretch.
“We really finished strong in man-up,” Tallman said. “We were able to just relax and get the looks that we wanted. Those were big man-up opportunities, and that’s what put them away at the end.”
Senior midfielder Jensen Hess and junior attacker Sheymus Maloney recorded a hat trick and an assist apiece, while junior midfielder Chris Sweetenburg provided three goals of his own. Classmate Chase Kaufman rounded out the Eagles’ scoring with two assists and a goal.
Maloney said his team’s patience and passing led to the offensive success. That was all part of Tallman’s strategy against an Archer team the coach claimed had an edge in size and athleticism.
“It’s not as if we’re not athletic, as well, but that’s not our strong suit yet,” Tallman said. “We were able to sort of slow the game down to our pace. We were playing a more athletic team, so we were able to slow it down and control possession on offense.”
Despite Riverside Military’s success dictating the flow of play, Tallman said his players still need to do a better job collecting ground balls.
That didn’t hurt the Eagles too much Thursday night.
Maloney began the scoring two minutes into the game on an assist from Hess. Tigers attacker Trevor Williams was whistled for a slash shortly after, but Riverside Military couldn’t turn the man-up situation into points.
Archer midfielder Daniel McKeller tied the score late in the first quarter, scooting to the front of the crease before finding the net.
Three minutes into the second quarter, Sweetenburg wrapped around the right side of the cage to score and kickstart a much more offensive period.
“Chris really stepped up for us,” Tallman said. “He did a good job with anticipating his looks and finishing.”
The teams took a 4-4 tie into halftime before the Eagles finally gained an edge. They maintained a two-point advantage into the fourth quarter thanks to a pair of goals from Maloney in the final two minutes of the third period.
“We were smarter with our passes,” Maloney said of his team’s second-half performance. “We made sure we were carrying correctly. We were looking for those right matchups to see if we can dodge on somebody pretty easily.”
After another Sweetenburg score, officials flagged the Tigers (2-3) for a cross-check. Riverside Military finally took advantage of a man-up opportunity, with Hess finding Kaufman for a goal just as Archer’s penalized player rushed back onto the field.
Tigers midfielder Cade Rogers slung the ball into the upper-left corner of the net to cut his team’s deficit to 9-6 about midway through the fourth quarter, but the Eagles struck again a minute later.
This time, Kaufman assisted Hess on a goal just nine seconds after Archer attacker Michael Balsamides was sent off for slashing. The Tigers managed to score again, but Riverside Military was able to drain most of the clock to knock off its Class AAAAAA opponent.
“Instead of trying to force passes and force shots, we passed it around more and made sure whoever was going to shoot the ball had an open shot, an open look,” Maloney said of the Eagles converting man-up situations into points. “It just came down to patience.”
Rogers, Balsamides and midfielder Blake Salmon each had two goals for Archer, with McKeller adding the other score.
That was all the Tigers managed against Riverside Military junior goalie Nicolo DePaoli, who recorded 14 saves before being subbed out in the closing minutes. Both Tallman and DePaoli praised sophomore defender Beau Fincher’s work around the net, though Archer still put 21 shots on goal.
“(DePaoli) did a great job, considering the amount of shots,” Tallman said. “The saves he made were big saves, and he was in positions where he was very vulnerable. There were some defensive breakdowns, and he ended up bailing us out a couple times.”