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Lacrosse stages improbable comeback in OT win

By Evan Moesta, 04/22/16, 9:45PM EDT

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“You gotta want it”, that’s been the motto since day one for the Millbrook Men’s Lacrosse team. In the final 24:19 of Friday night’s game, no team in the state of North Carolina may have “wanted” a win as bad as the Wildcats who overcame a 6-2 halftime deficit to win 11-10 in overtime vs. Enloe.

Playoff implications were on the line in a rain-soaked Wildcat Stadium. It took Millbrook quite some time to get their footing in the rough conditions, and Enloe capitalized. Caelan Eckard found Dan Izatt for a score four minutes into the contest, and then Eckard skipped a shot past Josh Madey twenty two seconds later to make it 2-0 game. The Eagles’ leading scorer Rhen Bumgardner got into the fun with 6:46 left in the first quarter with a top-self laser off a Millbrook turnover to increase the lead to 3-0.

The Wildcats finally broke the ice in an opening stretch that was ruled by Enloe. Griffin Jefferies fed Cruz Waerness with a pass behind the Eagle goal. Deliberately, Waerness crept around the right post and fired a shot by Nathan Hames for his first of the night. Jefferies picked up his first career varsity point with the assist after debuting on Thursday night following a successful JV campaign. He followed his first point, with his first goal on an unorthodox play with 3:53 left in the half. The freshman attempted to pass the ball towards the net, but it skipped up off the wet grass and found its way into the goal to cut Enloe’s lead to 5-2.

Prior to Jefferies goal, Dan Izatt had already registered a hat trick for the Eagles. After his third of the game with 11:15 left in the second quarter, Millbrook goaltender, Josh Madey buckled down to make five of his eleven total saves in the final stretch of the half. Madey’s finest came after Eckard boosted the Enloe lead to 6-2. With 46.5 seconds left, an Eagle forward faked high, and went low on the senior goalie, but Madey kicked out his right leg for the stop. That sent the Wildcats into halftime trailing by four.

“When we play as a team, nobody can beat us” says head coach Adam Kraciuk, “the message at half was to have fun, and make this night one to remember. I really felt like we grew the desire to win after halftime”.

Millbrook came out firing, and Enloe had no answer for them in the third quarter. Twenty-three seconds into the second half, Joe Cooper took Drew Lange’s faceoff win right to the goal for a top-shelf score to make it 6-3 Eagles. Ninety seconds later, Garrett Patnesky was slashed in the helmet which drew an Enloe penalty, before the whistle could be blown, Patnesky navigated his way through the defense, and scored to bring the Wildcats within two.

As time was running off the Enloe penalty, Josh Madey was called for a slash to bring the teams even at 5-on-5. The visitors took advantage of the penalty by scoring with Tommy Gouveia in goal to build on to their lead, 7-4. Madey returned to make two huge stops between the pipes. The second led to a breakout from Cameron Celetti, who would find Patnesky for another chance, and another penalty drawn. Millbrook was unable to score on the play, but they would take advantage of the penalty on the release when Eric Stieber found Shain Jefferies for a shot that bounced past Hames to make it 7-5. Alec Lademann scored two minutes later to make it 7-6, and then Dean Mussler raced up field in the closing seconds of the third quarter to find Drew Bass, who was camped in front of the Enloe goal to tie things up at 7-7.

Eric Stieber, who was on the giving end of Jefferies third quarter goal, scored the first goal of the fourth quarter for Millbrook to tie the game at 8-8 after an Enloe score from Hayes Hess. Chances were aplenty after Stieber’s goal with 6:32 left in regulation. Patnesky over shot Cooper on a golden opportunity in front of the net, then Patnesky rocketed a shot off the crossbar with just under four minutes left. The increased pace forced the Eagles to commit another penalty, and once more, Millbrook was there to take advantage of it.

“We haven’t been able to succeed as much as we would like to this season on the man advantage”, said Kraciuk after the game. Friday happened to be one of those nights where the tables turned for the Wildcats as Alec Lademann flipped a pass over the Enloe goal, and right to Cruz Waerness who was wide open for the score from five feet out. “When you’re that open, it’s easy to finish, but the credit needs to go to guys like Alec (Lademann), and Sam (Weeks)” said Waerness. His goal completed the Wildcat comeback, and he added insurance twenty-two seconds later when Weeks found him wide open up field for another goal to make it 10-8 Millbrook.

All that the Wildcats had to do was stand tall on defense for the final 3:13 of the game, but a strong Enloe attack made things very interesting. Enloe scored two goals in the span of eleven seconds with under a minute to play, to tie the score at 10-10. The Eagles even won the draw, and controlled possession with 46.3 seconds remaining. After a missed shot, and deflection from a Wildcat defender, Millbrook was able to keep Enloe at bay to force sudden death overtime.

“I wanted this so bad for the seniors” said Cruz Waerness, a junior, “going into overtime, you realize that all of these guys that you’ve had a chance to play with over the last few years like Shain, Joe, and Garrett only have a few more chances to play this game on this field, and for us juniors and sophomores, we knew we couldn’t let them down”.

Four minutes were put on the clock for the overtime period, and it only took nineteen seconds of it for the Wildcats to send the soaking wet fans home happy. Sophomore, Drew Lange got tangled up in a face-off that saw the ball roll to the stick of Jackson Wilkins, the Millbrook defender took a few steps forward before sending a thirty yard pass to Shain Jefferies. From there, Jefferies went to work as he wove through the Enloe defense, and backhanded a shot that sneaked in near the left pipe. 

“By far that’s the biggest goal that I’ve ever scored,” noted Jefferies, “yeah, I’m not sure that you’re ever going to score a bigger one,” joked Waerness as the win helped inch the Wildcats closer to an all-important playoff spot. At 8-6 on the season, and 7-4 in the conference, Kraciuk says that his team has all of the momentum in the world heading into the final week of the regular season. Millbrook has never won a playoff game in school history, but with their newfound desire, anything is possible. Next week the Wildcats travel to Garner, and Rolesville before closing out the regular season at home against their rival, Wakefield.