CAMDEN – Jacob Copio wasn’t playing as an attacker for Caesar Rodney at the start of the season.
He looks pretty good there now.
Copio pumped in a career-high five goals Wednesday night as the Riders turned the tables on Cape Henlopen with an 11-6 victory in the opening round of the DIAA Boys Lacrosse Tournament at Riders Stadium.
“It wasn’t really designed,” Copio said. “I just showed up to play today. It worked out.”
The seventh-seeded Riders (10-6) earned a Saturday quarterfinal trip to No. 2 Tower Hill, at a time to be determined. CR will be headed there in the right direction, after weathering a four-game losing streak late in the season.
An 11-9 loss to Cape on April 27 decided the Henlopen North title and kicked off the tailspin. The Riders fell to Archmere and Salesianum before dropping an 11-9 decision to Tower Hill on May 11, so more revenge will be possible Saturday.
“We had that four-game stretch where we were losing games, but they kept battling and kept battling,” CR coach Matt Faircloth said. “That was the toughest part, because they put a lot of work in. We had very solid practice, but they weren’t getting the wins at the end of the day.”
The Riders rebounded to edge Appoquinimink 15-12 before closing the regular season with a 16-8 win at Dover. Now, CR is rolling.
“The last couple of games definitely helped us out, because I think this team has revealed what they can be,” Faircloth said. “As a coaching staff, we knew. But I think the kids needed to know it.”
It was 1-1 after the first quarter. Then the Riders took control, as Brinen Lefevre won the faceoff and passed to Copio for a goal just six seconds into the second quarter. Copio bulled in for another, and Pat Matsko scored from the right side to make it 4-1.
“We put in some new sets, and we came out ready to play this time,” Copio said. “There was a lot of energy. We just came out and did it.”
Another three-goal burst, including two by Copio and one by Demetrius Stevenson, pushed the CR lead to 7-2 at the half.
“He’s been really chomping at the bit,” Faircloth said of Copio. “He’s worked incredibly hard. He wanted to know what he could do to make this team better, and I think it really showed tonight.”
The 10th-seeded Vikings (8-7) were down 10-3 with 6:45 to play, but tried to get back in it with goals from Dillon Mocci, Robert Neall and Erik-Stephane Stancofski. But Copio scored off his own rebound with 1:31 to go, and the Riders won the faceoff and ran out the clock.
Contact Brad Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ.