Anna Maria exposes holes in young Emerson defense

 

Max Smith sunk to the field at Rotch Playground, his fists slamming down in frustration on the green turf.

Smith knew he had just missed two prime scoring opportunities to bring his team back into the game.

The chances came about 40 seconds apart at the start of the second half, and each time Smith had positioned himself at the goalmouth. But both times he raised his stick and let the shot fly, the ball sailed harmlessly past the net.

Normally, an attacker can count on having more chances to score for his team. But such was not the case in Tuesday night’s men’s lacrosse game against Anna Maria College.

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Instead, Smith rarely touched the ball. He and the rest of the Lion offense had to watch as a young, unproven defensive squad tried desperately to clear the ball from Emerson’s side of the field, a task that more often than not, it couldn’t perform.

“Our clearing game was just atrocious tonight,” said head coach Nathaniel Mayo. “Our stick handling was bad, too. We’ve got a lot of fundamentals to work on.”

The defensive breakdown allowed Anna Maria to spend most of the game with the ball. The AMCATS constantly set up plays that rotated around the net, flinging a total of 61 shots on goal, over more than double Emerson’s output, winning the game, 17-6.

Emerson fell to 0-3, while Anna Maria improved to 3-5.

“We’re still a young defense, and it can be really difficult to get everyone used to each other’s playing styles,” said freshman Donnie Welch, a writing, literature, and publishing major. “Clearing and getting the ball to our offense is definitely something we need to work on.”

During 15 minutes of play in the fourth period, the Emerson offense was only in possession of the ball for three minutes and thirty-five seconds. During that time, they managed just seven shots on goal, none of which found the back of the net.

On the offensive side, Anna Maria did most of its damage in the second period.

Emerson ended the first with a 4-3 lead. But just over a minute into the second, Andrew Biscardi tied the game for Anna Maria. From there the AMCATS took control, outshooting the Lions 18-4 in the quarter.

The ball was constantly lurking by the Lions’ goal. Emerson netminder Braden Campbell, a former Beacon editor, was under barrage. The AMCATS averaged more than one shot on goal per minute of play in the second half.

Welch said one of the contributing factors in the struggle was that Emerson played a zone defense for just the second time this season.

“Normally we play man and so there was a lot of adjustment and figuring things out,” Welch said. “We didn’t play very well.”

This meant that instead of sticking to a specific attacker,  the Lions dropped into a formation and dividing the field into specific sections with a defender responsible for each. When Smith missed his golden opportunities at the beginning of the second half, the aggravation began to mount.

Just a few moments later, while chasing down an Anna Maria attacker, Smith raised his stick and thrashed it into the back of an Amcat attacker.

The blatant infraction produced an immediate flurry of yellow flags from the referees and resulted in a penalty.

Smith’s frustration ended up costing the Lions. Less than a minute later, with the AMCATS still on a man-advantage because of the penalty, Anna Maria’s Mike Saulnier scored, putting the AMCATS up by six.

“It was just very frustrating because it was a goal right on the doorstep. It should’ve been a goal no questions asked,” said Smith, a writing for television and film major. “What can I say? We just didn’t get the job done tonight. None of us did.”

Emerson now has a bye week to try and work out its kinks.

“I think the frustration is probably one of the biggest things we have now as a team,” Mayo said. “You feel like you’re close and then it’s not there.”