WINDHAM—The Eagles breezed past Bangor at home in the quarterfinals on Wednesday afternoon, June 6. Tyler Woolston led the 18-7 assault, peppering the Rams’ cage with four goals and assisting on six others.
Two days later, Windham traveled to Portland for the semis. There, the Eagles fell behind early and never recovered, succumbing 12-6 despite a hat trick (and then some) by Tommy Lekousi.
No. 3 Windham vs. No. 6 Bangor
“Bangor we didn’t play in the regular season at all, and we had very little scouting on them,” said Windham head coach Pete Small, asked about his expectations for the bout. “It made preparation a bit difficult; we talked to some coaches and got a little bit of a read on them, but it’s hard when you’re that far away and don’t have any common opponents.”
The outcome here – after the opening few minutes, anyway – was never in doubt; the Eagles put up five through the first quarter and prevented the Rams from lighting the proverbial lamp until the second had nearly arrived. The diversity of Windham’s attack has been a strength for the team all spring: Seth Wall kicked off the Eagles’ scoring push, Nazari Henderson followed him up, and Matt Babb, Woolston and Lekousi contributed as well.
“The biggest thing for us is to try to spread it around to everyone,” Woolston said, asked about the Eagles’ impressive offense. “Two players aren’t going to win a game; it’s the whole team. Fortunately, we have six weapons.”
“A lot of us have been playing together a lot,” Lekousi said, asked about the Eagles’ chemistry on the attack. “And the past week of practice, we’ve been trying to nail down things we’ve been working on all year that we may not have been running correctly – to get prepared for today.”
Likewise, Holden Anderson finished with four goals on the day – including three in the second quarter alone. The first of those came on a finesse bounce shot from just off the left Bangor post. Woolston assisted on the play; he assisted again on Anderson’s next notch, a few minutes later. Woolston also scored in the stretch (assist to Lekousi), as did Travis Brown.
For their part, the Rams managed two in the second: David Brown cooked up one and Jonny Lyon the other. Come the break, however, Windham’s boot very clearly, and very heavily, lay on Bangor’s neck. 10-3.
“In a game where you’re not really sure what’s going on, you’ve got to run your system,” Small said of Windham’s strategy. “I thought our guys did that fairly well. There were moments, though; middle of the second quarter, had a let-down, came back and were okay. A little bit in the third quarter again. It’s more, ‘How do we minimize our mistakes?’”
“We really stuck to our game,” Woolston said. “All season we’ve just tried to play our game. Against Portland, we had a big game, and we played our game, and that’s why we won. That’s why we’ve won some big games this year.”
Lekousi characterized Windham’s game. “It’s settling it down, getting everyone involved. If you go back to last year, the reason we didn’t win as many games is because we tried to run the offense off of two or three people.”
The Eagles dominated through the downhill half as well, hashing eight further. Lekousi added a pair in the third, and Brown, Woolston and Andrei Voineau laid down one apiece. Woolston’s proved especially pretty: It followed on a bang-bang-bang hookup, Babb plunging up the right side of the field and shoveling inward to Lekousi, who relayed left for Woolston and the redirect score.
Woolston, Babb and Anderson capped the Eagles’ afternoon in the fourth.
Anderson picked up one assist in the outing (in addition to his quartet of goals).
The Eagles looked to be playing pretty complete lacrosse; Small expressed satisfaction with their efforts. “I really am satisfied,” he said. “Both ends, our transition game, things are going pretty well. So we feel good.”
It’s the end of the line for the Bangor train, which did quite well for itself to reach the postseason ranked sixth in A North – it’s only the Rams’ first year as a varsity program, after all. The team returns to the sidelines till 2019 at 9-4.
Windham’s win bumped them to 11-2 in 2018, and advanced them to a re-re-match with the Bulldogs: The teams clashed twice in the regular season, Portland emerging victorious from the first bout 13-8, and Windham claiming the second battle 8-7.
The Rams may not have challenged the Eagles, but Windham still wrung some valuable insights from the contest. “We were trying new things,” Woolston said. “It was an opportunity. We tried to work on our game, so we can prepare for Portland.”
“They know a lot that we do,” Lekousi said of Portland. “But we also know a lot that they do. We’re pretty familiar with their defense, so I think we know what we need to do to come out and get some goals. Like, our first game, when they beat us, we had so many penalties. They scored almost all their goals man-up; we need to avoid that.”
No. 3 Windham vs. No. 2 Portland
The Eagles won the opening faceoff vs. the Bulldogs, but couldn’t convert even after a lengthy possession. Once Portland took control, they shoved Windham back on their heels and held them there for quite some time. The Eagles committed too many turnovers and looked tentative on defense, allowing Portlanders Sam Shaw and Kevin Moore to add two in rapid succession, and Shaw to strike twice more before the end of the first. Late in the quarter, Windham pushed back, applied some pressure of their own, but the Bulldogs stood strong.
“We didn’t have the ball a whole lot, offensively,” Small said. “First minute and a half, we had it offensively; we only had it 45 more seconds the rest of the first quarter…That’s a tribute to Portland, first and foremost. You’ve got to throw it their way. They were aggressive on the wing, they were getting the ground balls, and that hurt us.”
Finally, just over a minute into the second, Lekousi put the Eagles on the board, shooting low through traffic from up top in the Bulldogs zone to beat their keeper, Aaron Hoekstra, for 4-1.
Portland added another roughly four minutes later. With 4:25 still to go before the break, Lekousi managed his second of the afternoon. 5-2; if Windham couldn’t involve more of their scorers, their chances of mounting a comeback were slim.
Small commented on Portland’s successfully shutting down all of Windham’s top scorers save Lekousi for such a huge chunk of the game: “We were prepped for that; they’ve got fast poles, and they play aggressive, and smart. Tommy was moving the ball, and we were trying a couple sets to see what they were doing with that. Tommy’s a gamer, at both ends of the field.”
“Defensively, they were getting their feet under them; the guys were rotating,” Small said. “Portland came out and played a little bit differently than the last couple times we played them. They made an adjustment. We expected that. Our middies, it took them a minute to read it, and once they read it, from the beginning of the second quarter on, we played pretty tough.
“It’s hard: You come out in a game like that with the relatively young guys that we have – Portland as well, and that’s a credit to them. They moved the ball very well and very fast. Once our kids made that adjustment, they played pretty even for the last three quarters.”
The Bulldogs tallied two more before the end of the half, all while holding the Eagles silent. Then, in the third, Windham actually outpaced their hosts – though, not by nearly enough, a mere two goals to Portland’s one. Lekousi completed his hat trick with a curl inside and a little sharp lob over Hoekstra’s shoulder, and Holden Anderson kicked in his contribution for the day from just off Hoekstra’s left post. 8-4.
But the Bulldogs wrung four out of the Eagles in the fourth, doubling up on them: Windham managed just two more before the final buzzer, Lekousi’s fourth (on an inside turn-and-fire) and one by Woolston (from just off Hoekstra’s post again, assisted by Seth Wall).
The Eagles return to the sidelines till 2019 at 11-3. It’s the end of Windham’s season, but the team has nothing to hang its collective head about. “That’s the thing,” Small said. “You play the game right, you play the game well, you play with character. The guys that were on the field today, I’ll take them any day of the week; they work their tails off, they’re good character kids, and I’ll take that. It’s high-school athletics. These kids put their heart and soul into it.
“It’s not so much they’re hanging their heads for the loss. Everybody wants to go on, but one team’s going to win at the end of the year. It’s not so much that; it’s the release of all the time, energy and passion you’ve put in with other players. That’s a great group of kids over there, and they’re young.”
The Eagles featured just four seniors this year: Henderson, Voinea, Ryan Logue and Logan Heckman. Small applauded the quartet. “The future is bright,” he said, “but the beauty is we’ve got some upperclassmen who are teaching these kids and they’re getting reps against them. We’ve got good leaders.”
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.
Tommy Lekousi collides with a Portland defender.
Seth Wall pulls the trigger for Windham.
Windhamite Ryan Logue keeps a step ahead of a Portland opponent.
Nazari Henderson flips the ball ahead.
Logan Heckman fires forward in Windham’s bout with Portland.
Tyler Woolston wards off a Portlander’s stick.
Holden Anderson carries for the Eagles.
Windham defenseman Josh Mora confronts a Portlander on the approach.
Travis Brown races upfield with the ball.
Windham’s Tommy Lekousi attacks in the team’s bout with Portland.
Travis Brown carries for the Eagles in their semifinals defeat.
Seth Wall fires forward for the Eagles.
Tyler Woolston tallied four goals in Windham’s thrashing of Bangor.
Tommy Lekousi kicked in three goals and three assists for the Eagles vs. Bangor.
Ryan Logue is one of a small group of seniors saying goodbye to the Eagles this year.
Nazari Henderson whips off a shot.
Matt Babb hurtles the ball ahead for Windham in their win over Bangor.
Tyler Woolston tumbles to the ground on the Bangor doorstep – just after scoring one of his four goals.
Holden Anderson hashed four goals for the Eagles vs. Bangor.
Matt Babb jukes between Portland opponents.