Maine-Endwell senior goaltender Tyler DeSario had some big shoes to fill taking over for four-year starter Tanner Cosens this season.
He’s been up to the task so far, something Johnson City discovered Thursday.
DeSario made 12 saves, part of a stout M-E defensive effort, and Vincent Vultaggio had three goals and an assist to help propel the Spartans to a 7-5 victory over JC in a Section 4 Boys Lacrosse Conference contest.
Justin Kopansky added two goals and an assist for M-E (7-1), which prevailed in a rematch of last year’s Section 4 Class C final — won by JC, 12-11 — and in the process handed the Wildcats (3-1) their first loss to a Section 4 team since May 2012.
Five of the previous seven meetings between the two teams had been decided by two goals or less, and Thursday’s game figured to be another tight one.
Though M-E never trailed, the Spartans could never breathe easy as JC remained within striking distance throughout.
Especially so after Nick Neferis scored 29 seconds into the fourth quarter to bring JC within 5-4. The Wildcats had several opportunities to tie, the best coming when Josh Bradford received a pass in front of the M-E cage and had a one-on-one with DeSario with just over seven minutes remaining.
DeSario managed to stop the shot, and less than a minute later Tyler Thompson scored to put M-E ahead 6-4 with 6:11 remaining.
JC wasn’t quite done, as Josh Davis scored unassisted with 3:57 remaining off a nice move from behind the M-E cage to cut the Spartans’ lead to 6-5. However, M-E managed to control possession for much of the final four minutes, finally putting it away on Vultaggio’s goal with 26.6 seconds remaining.
“It boosts our team’s confidence,” said M-E senior defenseman Kyle Urban, one of the key contributors in slowing JC’s attack. “But they’ll be ready the next time we play them.
“We’ve been working on defense non-stop, buttoning up our slides. I thought defensively we did a great job.”
DeSario said his team’s loss to Vestal on Saturday, an 11-7 setback, was a motivator for he and his teammates coming into its game with JC.
“The Vestal game, in a way it was kind of like a scrimmage, it got us ready for this one,” said DeSario, a reserve last season before taking the starting reins when Cosens moved to play at Binghamton University. “We got a loss on our shoulders and we don’t want to feel that again.”
Neferis had three goals for JC, but the rest of the Wildcats were relatively quiet offensively.
JC wasn’t lacking in opportunities, winning 11 of 14 face-offs and enjoying a 33-27 advantage in shots.
“We knew defensively they were solid,” JC coach Bo Flynn said. “We had a lot of shots on their goalie and he came up big. We didn’t really shoot where we wanted to … defensively, we have a couple of young kids out there a little hesitant on their heels, we just need them to be more aggressive.”
“They won a game early in the season, we lost a game. We’re not going to hold our heads down, we’ve got another game Saturday and we’ll go from there.”
M-E took a 1-0 lead less than a minute in when Kopansky scored on a fast break off an assist from Vultaggio. JC knotted the score at 1 on a Neferis goal with 3:46 left in the quarter.
M-E caught a big break before the second quarter started, as a JC player was deemed by the officials of having an illegal stick. The result was a three-minute, non-releasable penalty, and M-E struck twice during the man-up advantage.
Vultaggio scored the first of the man-up goals just 24 seconds into the second quarter. A little over a minute later, Brock Post sent a nice pass to a cutting Kopansky, who promptly fired a quick shot past JC goalie Chris Charnetsky to put M-E ahead 3-1 with 10:26 remaining.
M-E led the rest of the way en route to snapping a five-game skid against JC. The two teams meet again at JC on May 10, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if a third meeting takes place during the Section 4 Class C playoffs.
“We’re (probably) going to see them two more times anyways, so I’m not putting too much stock in this one,” M-E coach Andy Ewing said. “We usually see them in Sectionals, so whoever wins that third one, that’s the big one.”