Confidence and momentum: Canandaigua boys surprise No. 1 Victor in Section V semifinals

·5 min read

It’s one thing to want a quick start. Quite another to get it.

So maybe winning the opening faceoff and scoring a goal just seconds later qualifies.

It certainly worked for Luke McCrobie and the Canandaigua Academy boys lacrosse team, which rode that energy to a 6-5 stunner over No. 1 seed Victor in a Section V Class B semifinal on Saturday at Fairport High.

McCrobie, a junior faceoff midfielder who missed the last four weeks with an injury, won the opening draw and struck first for the No. 4 Braves. And while Sam Ricci answered in kind for Victor on the ensuing faceoff, it was the Braves who were able to hog all the momentum for themselves after that.

They built a 5-1 lead before the Blue Devils found their footing. Of course, Victor rallied to tie the score at 5-5 in the third quarter with a series of well-executed cuts and passes, but it was Jaxon Grant’s laser in the fourth quarter that gave CA the margin it needed to send Victor to its first loss of the season.

“We’ve had a couple of games where were started slow and we were able to climb back,” Victor coach Dan Stone said. “This one, we didn’t.”

That was in large part because of a Canandaigua defense that has a way of altering shots, whether that’s through forcing shooters into uncomfortable space or by simply making them think too much.

Victor's Jack Herendeen, left, protects the ball against the defense of Canandaigua's Eric Platten during Saturday's Class B semifinal.
Victor's Jack Herendeen, left, protects the ball against the defense of Canandaigua's Eric Platten during Saturday's Class B semifinal.

But it also helped the Braves in having McCrobie back, along with senior attackman Matt Belles. Injuries kept both on the sideline for a good chunk of the regular season, but their return changed a CA lineup that had always been heavy on defense but now had more offensive options.

Of course, coach Deven York talked with his team about getting a fast start on Saturday. He couldn’t be sure it would happen but when it did, the positive vibe was almost overwhelming.

“Every high school team feeds on momentum and they feed on confidence,” he said.

More: Section V boys lacrosse scores for the 2022 season

What it means

The Braves (13-5) advance to Wednesday’s Class B championship game against No. 2 Irondequoit (16-2), which defeated defending champion and No. 3 Webster Thomas (12-6) in Saturday’s second semifinal. The championship game is at 5 p.m. at Eastridge High.

Victor ends its season with a 17-1 record.

Key development

On May 5, Victor defeated Canandaigua 7-2 for an outcome that really didn’t surprise anyone. The Braves had been without the injured Belles all season and two days before that game, McCrobie was hurt in a loss to Spencerport.

So in that May 5 game, Ricci won 12 of 13 faceoffs and the Braves rarely had possession. On Saturday, McCrobie and Belles were at 100% and York knew CA’s chances were better for this game, pointing to factors beyond the obvious having two talented players back on the field.

“When he won that first faceoff, I was like, this is what we need,” said York.

With McCrobie out, confidence in winning faceoffs was low for the Braves.

“It drains you,” said York. “That’s 18 more times a game you have to play defense, 18 less times you get to play offense.”

And Belles? He didn’t have any points on Saturday, but the Victor defense had to account for him, which drew attention away from others. But, as York pointed out, the absence of both produced some benefits for the Braves.

Especially on attack.

Without Belles, CA turned to freshman Drew Williamee, who might not have played as much as he did if Belles were healthy. And sophomore Sean Olvaney wouldn’t have had to spend as much time on the left side of the attack and developing the left hand during game situations.

But the injuries forced these youngsters into roles they might not have normally had and the result — at the best time of the season — is a stronger offense,

“We learned to play a lot of defense and we learned to value the ball,” said York. “By not having those (injured) guys, the other guys were able to grow up.”

They said it

“The advantage we have over Victor is we’ve lost,” said York. “We’ve failed. We’ve been hurt and we know pain and adversity … I’m not taking anything away from them, (but) when you lose games during the regular season you learn resiliency.”

“We didn’t capitalize on great opportunities in the second and third quarters,” said Stone. “I felt like we made adjustments, we just didn’t produce.”

Canandaigua's Matt Bellis, left, drives against the defense of Victor's Thomas Gravino during Saturday's Class B semifinal.
Canandaigua's Matt Bellis, left, drives against the defense of Victor's Thomas Gravino during Saturday's Class B semifinal.

“Some of these losses … it hurt our hearts but I do think it helped us grow as a team and we felt … if it went into deep waters, we could come out swimming,” Canandaigua senior defenseman Eric Platten.

“I knew that if we could … get up early  that our sideline would take a deep breath and our kids would gain that confidence and (Victor) might have to do a little soul searching,” said York.

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Section V boys lacrosse: Canandaigua surprises Victor in semifinals