By most measures, including 11 regular-season wins and a No. 1 seed in the Division II playoffs, it has been a successful campaign for the Yellowjacket boys lacrosse team.
It took just a seven-minute stretch in the second quarter of the D-II semifinals last Tuesday for it to come to an end, as a visiting five-seed Harwood Union team that played much faster and deeper than its ranking pulled away for a 14-8 win.
Down one early in the second quarter, the Highlanders scored six unanswered goals and eight of the final nine tallies going into the half as Milton struggled to match up against a six-man Harwood attack unit that spread its scoring around.
“There’s so much going on, and it’s tough to track a guy. We didn’t do as well as I’d like to in locking up guys in transition,” Milton coach Trevor Wagar said.
Winners of seven of its last eight, including a narrow 7-6 victory over the visiting Yellowjackets on May 19, Harwood was not your typical five seed. Six Highlanders scored last Tuesday, led by five goals and an assist from Connor Woolley and three goals from Eli Kalkstein.
Still, Devon Jackson scored just 10 seconds into the game for Milton, and the Jackets led 3-2 1:11 into the second quarter after a bad-angle shot by Ben Bruso that beat Harwood goalkeeper Cam Andrews.
That would be the last Milton lead.
Woolley scored 9:34 before the half, and a little over a minute later, Kalkstein tallied another on a man advantage, assisted by Ryan Garrand. Woolley scored again, then Garrand, then Noah Williams, to make it 7-3. And Wagar, who prefers to let his players work their way out of a jam on their own, instead called a timeout with his defense looking disjointed.
Ethan Howell scored to make it 8-4, but by the break it was a six-goal game, and Milton’s hopes of making it to the state championship were in trouble.
“I think just mentally we kind of lost it on that run and we just didn’t get enough to get it back,” Wagar said. “It was nice to get a good start, the first goal. That was awesome, and I thought we’d be able to roll with it. But that run definitely kind of burned us a bit, and we know that they’re deadly all around.”
Defensively, the Highlanders kept Howell, Milton’s scoring leader, in check, forcing him to shoot from the outside. Even from the perimeter, Howell’s quick release is deadly. But last Tuesday in the mud and soaking rain, Andrews foiled him again and again from both outside and in close, finishing with eight saves.
“They’ve just been playing so well at the end and that’s what the playoffs are all about,” Wagar said.
Jackson led Milton with three goals, and Howell scored once to go with an assist. Tim Dockham added two goals, and Sam Patterson tallied in the fourth quarter to make it 13-8 with 5:27 left in the game. Dustin Rock was credited with 18 saves.
On Patterson’s goal, Harwood was assessed two penalties, giving Milton a two-man advantage for a full minute. But the ‘Jackets came up empty and couldn’t regain possession, essentially putting the game away.
“When it comes down to it, you’ve got to be able to score in transition late, and you’ve got to have the complementary scoring late. We did early. But we didn’t late,” Wagar said.