The “what could’ve been” stung the most.
Maclay lacrosse forward Stephen Chase couldn’t believe his bad fortune. Coming to the sideline, his water bottle found the ground in vicious disappointment.
The Marauders turned a 5-4 halftime deficit into a two-goal lead just 3½ minutes into the third quarter of Tuesday night’s regional final against visiting Ponte Vedra.
Chase had two of the three goals, and on a man advantage had an opportunity for one more and a pivotal four-goal swing. But somehow Sharks goalie Colin Peaks stopped Chase’s point-blank look.
Second-ranked Ponte Vedra capitalized with five straight goals, winning 12-8 to knock No. 4 Maclay out of the playoffs short of its Final Four objective.
“They stopped us and we could have gone up three,” said Chase, who scored four goals. “That was the turning point right there. They got the energy from then, got the momentum and took it.”
Ponte Vedra (21-2) was at Maclay’s mercy early with the Marauders (19-4) displaying focus they hadn’t thus far shown in the playoffs. It was only two of Cody Legeza’s three goals that pulled the Sharks back in front at the break.
“We came out with the energy, got the lead, were that close and then just fell apart in the fourth quarter,” Chase said.
Immediately out of the break, Maclay sophomore Chad Minter won one of numerous faceoffs, 15-5 on the night, actually. With an opening, Minter sprinted and fired on for a goal just 11 seconds in. He won the next faceoff, did the same and Chase cleaned up a near miss. Two goals in 18 seconds had changed the Marauders’ outlook.
“Minter is one of the best faceoff guys we’ve faced,” said Sharks coach Tom West, who coached Marauders coach Mike Jones in high school. “We had no answer for him. It’s like playing, ‘Make it, take it’ and never taking it. The only times we did, we scored. That was a huge momentum shift coming out of the half with those two goals.”
After Maclay sophomore goalie Austin Cook (nine saves) made a huge stop, Chase added an unassisted goal, leading to the game’s most crucial possession, which came as the result of a multi-penalty melee. Peaks only made one save in the third quarter, but it was gigantic.
“We told them before the game that goalie was going to make one or two of those saves,” Jones said. “That happened to be the time he made it. We definitely played our guts out, but that’s the best team and they show why. When they get to the fourth quarter, they’re so deep and so fast.”
Ponte Vedra’s Miles Silva ended the quarter with two of his five goals, including one with two seconds left. With the momentum gone, Maclay watched as the Sharks pulled away on restarts and in transition.
Lewis Langford scored two first-quarter goals for Maclay, while Jack Berg had one off Langford’s pass.
“We’re on the right track with the program,” said Jones, who has 12 underclassmen on the roster. “It’s like that forbidden fruit is right there, but we just can’t seem to grab it.”
The good news for Jones is Cook, Chase, Minter and Lewis Langford all return.
“We just have to play every time like it’s the last time we’ll put on a jersey,” Chase said. “We have to give it everything we have every time.”