The Buccaneers’ varsity lacrosse team knew it had to pick up the pace when it came time for state tournament play.
Grand Haven did just that on Friday, racing to an early 7-0 lead and cruising to a dominating 16-3 win over visiting Howell in the opening round of the Div. 1 regional tournament.
With the win, the Bucs advance to Tuesday’s regional semifinals. They’ll face rival Rockford at Hope College at 6 p.m.
To see more photos from Friday's game, click here.
“In practice, the whole week, we’ve been all about high tempo, 100 percent of the time, all about intensity,” said Buccaneer senior attack Trevor McNamara, who poured in four goals and an assist. “We’ve had a lot more strict focus. The guys are realizing this could be their last game.”
The Bucs quickly put that fear to rest on Friday as they jumped on top of the visiting Highlanders with an aggressive defensive game plan and a quick-strike offensive attack.
The Bucs’ defense put a ton of pressure on the Highlanders, which kept Howell’s offense in check.
“We knew if we pressed them defensively, we could create turnovers,” Bucs’ coach Murle Greer said. “That and we took away their 1-2 big shooters.”
Greer certainly noticed his team’s improved focus and intensity for this game.
“We knew we couldn’t come out slow, and that we had to keep our foot on the gas, keep the pressure on the other team,” Greer said.
Greer raved about the performance of Ryan Maguire, who finished with an astonishing 13 ground balls.
“He’s running the win off faceoffs and he just goes and gets it every time,” Greer said. “He’s coming up huge for us this year. That’s a stat that goes hugely unnoticed, but we say it all the time, ground balls win games.”
The Bucs also continued their season-long trend of dominating faceoffs. Against Howell, they won 17 of 21 faceoffs.
“That’s huge, because that gives us possession and lets us put the pressure on them,” Greer said.
McNamara has been scoring goals at a torrid pace all season, despite being hounded by opposing defenses.
He’s received plenty of help as several teammates have proven capable of picking up the scoring. On Friday, it was Jake Bouman, who had one of his best games of the year with four goals and an assist.
Jake Vieau added two goals and two assists, while brothers Jeff Olson and Matt Olson combined for four points.
Asa Pellegrom scored an early goal for the Bucs.
Goalie Dan Gignac wasn’t tested often thanks to a great performance by the Bucs’ defense, especially Matt Mulcahy, Nick Mulcahy and Brody Smith.
“That group is very coachable,” Greer said.
On Tuesday, the Bucs will face a Rockford team that has a record well below .500, but is much more dangerous than that record would indicate.
“I looked it up and they’ve played one of the hardest schedules in the state,” McNamara said.
The Bucs and the Rams have met twice this spring. Grand Haven won the first meeting by two goals, then took the second game in overtime.
“They’ve improved throughout the year, and they’re going to come out fast and fired up,” Greer said. “If we make mistakes against a team like Rockford, we’re going to give them the game.”