In a nuetral field clash at the University of New Mexico on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, the Fort Lewis Skyhawks defeated DI Texas Tech 16-11. The Red Raiders, playing without their head coach and several players from their roster, found themselves short handed and out of gas as the Skyhawks controlled the final few minutes of the game. The win moved Fort Lewis to 2-0 on the season and raised expectations heading into a three game trip to California for Spring Break.
Complete game stats at http://mcla.us
Despite some great early offensive possessions, the Skyhawks couldn’t find the back of the net in the first few minutes and found themselves down 2-0 following a man-up goal by Tech’s leading scorer Neil Gordon. The Skyhawks made a concerted effort to clean up their sloppy and overly aggressive play to cut down on penalties. Still, the young team found themselves trailing 3-2 at the end of the quarter. The two goals were scored on some spectacular individual efforts by Senior Paul Larson and Sophomore Chris Shoptaugh. Cody Viereck made some excellent saves on some hard bounce shots in the quarter to keep the game close.
The second quarter saw the Skyhawks spread their wings, and spread the offense, as they poured in 6 goals. Unfortunately, the quarter was marred by a scuffle between Fort middie Sam Anderson and Texas Tech middie Brandon Kaker. It is never a fun talk to have with a team about taking the high road, and about being a classy team at all times. 4 minutes in penalties were assessed to both teams for the incident, suspensions will follow for both individuals, and the game continued with each team down a man. This was the second fighting incident for Tech in as many games, the previous one resulting in suspension for their head coach and their goalie for the game against Fort Lewis. In the end, the incident ignited a run by the Skyhawks, who exploited the open offensive end and created multiple goals off of unselfish play and aggressive dodging. At the end of the half, the penalties were expired, and the Fort found themselves leading 8-5.
Texas Tech showed the character of a DI team in the second half, rallying whenever the Fort looked to take control of the game. Too much depth, and some dominant defensive play by freshmen longsticks Garrett Hooper and Shaun Koenig, led to a controlling effort by the Skyhawks. Paul Larson stole the 3rd quarter with an almost unstoppable inside presence, and the Fort connected on a high percentage of their limited shot opportunities. Give the Skyhawk midfield a lot of credit for patience with the ball and emphasizing long, quality possessions that tired out the depleted Tech defense. It is always nice as a coach to see a game plan well executed. To their credit, that hasn’t been much of a problem for this young team so far.
The fourth quarter promised to be a battle, as the Fort began up 12-8, expecting Texas Tech to give all they had. True to form, the Red Raiders kept it within reach, but they couldn’t stop the opportunistic and disciplined Fort offense, or crack the strong team defense. Senior attack Kevin Harkey and freshman attack Brian Lynch put the icing on the cake with some strong riding and accurate shooting, showing their athletic prowess as the Raiders tried aggressively to double team without much success. The Skyhawks ended with 8 players scoring points, a total team effort, a defense that made all the adjustments necessary to control the victory, quality work by all the midfielders on ground balls and faceoffs, and 7 goals by Paul Larson to lead the way.
The conclusion of our opening weekend trip to New Mexico finds us 2-0, with some valuable lessons learned. With a couple of strong showings against two DI opponents, we know that we should be able to compete with anyone. We know that we need to be more disciplined on the field with our attitude and performance. We know how to play a team game, we have some great individual talent and we know that a young team with some strong veteran leadership can be a dangerous mix for our opponents. Counting down the days until California, 3 games against quality DII competition that has had the advantage of already playing multiple games. I believe we will be ready, this is what we live for.