The South River boys’ lacrosse team completed its dominant march through the East region playoffs on Wednesday night, putting together an impressive display of overwhelming defense and efficient second-half offense that rattled the visiting Chesapeake Cougars en route to a 10-3 win and a berth in the state tournament beginning Saturday.
Leading the charge for South River was senior midfielder Matt Gaskins, who scored three goals and won every faceoff (eight of eight) over the first three quarters as the Seahawks built a 7-1 lead. Sophomore attack Brandon Senft also had three goals for South River, while teammates Ben Chisolm (2), Daniel Fohs and Dylan Mansur all found the net in victory.
The Seahawks advance to the state tournament for the third consecutive season and will defend their crown as reigning 4A/3A Maryland champions beginning with Saturday’s tilt against South champion Howard at Annapolis High School at noon.
After a loss to Arundel in the county championship game on May 6, the Seahawks rebounded to rip through the East, knocking off North Point, Broadneck, Huntingtown and now Chesapeake. The Cougars were the tournament’s Cinderella, having bounced county champion Arundel and top-seeded Northern in the region quarters and semis, respectively, but the clock struck midnight in violent fashion against the Seahawks Wednesday.
After a somewhat slow start—Chesapeake outshot South River 8-5 in the first quarter—the Seahawks began to heat up in the second, outshooting the Cougars 14-3 in the frame. If not for Chesapeake goalie Ruston Souder, the UMBC-bound keeper who overcame an early leg injury to post eight saves in the second quarter, many of them brilliant stops, the Seahawks probably would have had a halftime lead larger than the 3-1 edge they took into the break.
South River nonetheless seemed to find another gear in the third, as Gaskins’ continued dominance in the faceoff circle, relentless riding by the attack and midfield and harrowing defense led by longsticks Tyler King and Stephen Hincks kept the ball mostly out of the hands of the Cougars. Two Senft goals and one by Gaskins were the result, and the defense shut out Chesapeake in the frame.
The Cougars couldn’t find any spark until late in the fourth, but by then the damage was done and the dream of a trip to states had long since turned into a lacrosse nightmare.
Gaskins spoke of the team’s unwavering effort in defending opponents’ transitions.
“We practice [riding] every day,” he said. “As a coaching staff, they get us prepared for our games, and right there that pretty much shows that we practice riding players every day.”
Business as usual for the Seahawks, who have an established standard: win state championship.
“We have a lot of veterans for later on in the playoffs on this team, a lot of kids returning from last year, so we’re ready for this situation and the big stage,” said Gaskins. “[Winning the state championship] is our main focus every year. That’s our goal in the beginning of the season, in workouts and everything, leading up to this point.”
Shots: South River 36, Chesapeake 26; Faceoffs: South River 8, Chesapeake 6; Saves: South River 5, Chesapeake 12; Posts hit: South River 3, Chesapeake 2.
Click here to view a photo gallery of this game.