After an unexpected 10-day delay because of the rain, the Glendale Vipers returned to the lacrosse field and made a case as a contender for one of the top teams in Arizona this season.
Glendale (4-0) opened the game strong with a smothering defense and jumped out to a huge early lead before hanging on for a 17-10 victory over the Chandler Pumas March 25 at Thunderbird Paseo Park.
Leading 10-4 at halftime, the Vipers’ Teegan Williams, of Verrado in Buckeye, erupted early in the second half. Williams scored three goals in the first five minutes, extending the Vipers’ lead to 13-4 with 6:21 left in the third quarter.
“When we got the big lead early in the second half, I pulled my starters and got some playing time for my younger guys,” Vipers head coach William Casey said. “We have about 11 guys who play year round that are really solid players, but we also have a lot of new kids and tonight we were able to get them some playing time.”
Williams opened the second half by taking a pass from Ironwood’s Jacob Knippel and spinning around two defenders, firing a shot past Chandler goaltender Evan Doble. Three minutes later, Williams picked up a loose ball and cut across the front of the net before scoring again from the outside.
“He (Williams) was really strong tonight and controlled the ball when he needed to,” Casey said. “He is playing very well right now and is one of the leaders of this team.”
Thirty-one seconds later, Cooper Brosius of Glendale Mountain Ridge bounced a shot from 15 yards out. The shot bounced off Doble, and Williams picked up the ball and fired it into the back of the net.
“With the weather delays, we played a scrimmage last week so we make sure not to take off time and we try to stay fresh,” Casey said. “We have a lot of players who play all year long, and some have been playing since kindergarten, and it was showing early in this game.”
Chandler (0-4), which is struggling with injuries and has lost eight players to injuries, never stopped battling after falling down by nine. Casey began pulling his starters with six minutes left in the third quarter, when the Pumas started to battle back.
With 5:26 left in the third quarter, Chandler’s Cody Sampley picked up a loose ball and raced to the right sideline, from where he lobbed pass to Tanner Donaldson, who then fired a shot that slipped past Brosius.
“We are usually the team that starts a game strong, getting up by five or six goals, before our depth catches up to us and we lose late,” Chandler head coach Tyce Thielsen said. “When you fall down like we did tonight, and with our deficiencies, it is very tough. And the guys knew it but kept battling.”
Williams picked up his fourth goal of the third quarter with 2:20 left when Peoria Centennial’s Robert Doran picked up a loose ball in front of the Glendale net and drove down the field. Doran passed the ball to Knippel, who flipped the ball back to Williams, who then bounced it into the net.
“We got a little run and started to battle back, but then (Williams) got that pass in front and was able to score again,” Thielsen said. “We kept fighting, but our defense really gave us some fits tonight.”
Chandler got one more in the third when they got a two-man advantage with 39 seconds left. Chandler’s Brody Kofahl fired a shot that bounced off the right crossbar, where he picked up the rebound, and fired it past Brosius to get the Pumas to 14-6 at the end of the third quarter.
After Chandler battled back, Casey said he was torn about pulling his reserves, but made the decision to put his starters back to stop the Pumas late push.
“I was very impressed with the first half, but got irritated late in the third quarter. We played sloppy in the second half and I had to put my starters back in the game,” Casey said. “I don’t blame the new guys at all, they played hard, but we started to slack off a bit and it showed. But the playing time is something those kids need and we were able to get them that tonight, which will help as the season continues.”
Chandler continued to attack in the fourth. After falling behind 15-6 with just over eight minutes left in the game, Puma midfielder Maxwell Rhoads picked up a loose ball and drove down the field. Rhoads spun between two Glendale defenders and fired a shot from 20 yards out that bounced past Vipers goaltender Devin Rockey of the Arizona Conservatory for Arts and Academics.
Less than a minute later, Chandler’s Tyler Allison fired a shot that was stopped by Rockey, but the ball bounced to Donaldson who picked it up and fired a shot into the back of the net.
“The kids just kept fighting and attacking and I am proud of the way they played the entire game,” Thielsen said. “I am not surprised. We teach that and that is how we are. We have been in every game, but this one got away from us early.”
Williams led all players with eight goals and Knippel added four as six different Vipers scored in the game. Doran, Brosius and Rockey each played in goal. Casey said his deepest position may be goaltender.
“I am three deep at goalie, and all three are strong in the net, and that is a good problem to have,” Casey said. “While we are not a deep team, I was able to get a lot of the younger guys playing time tonight.”
Chandler was led by Donaldson, who score six goals. Kofahl added two in the loss. Thielsen said his team, even though they are shorthanded due to injuries, must continue to improve.
“We just need to keep going. We are so close and we have the talent, but we just need to slow the game down and control the pace. We will keep working because the skill is there and we just need to work on the mental side of the game, but we are close to breaking through.”
Casey said this victory was key to seeing what type of team he had and, after their fourth victory on the season, his expectations have changed for the season.
“I want to go to state and I think this team has the talent to do that,” Casey said. “If we keep playing like we are and the way the league is, it is open to anybody so I see us going to a championship. I think we have the talent to make a run.”