BRATTLEBORO -- Even with a big event going on in town, fans packed the bleachers at Natowich Field to watch Saturday’s Division 1 boys lacrosse quarterfinal.
They saw Sam Usilton stroll into enemy territory often, bull his way toward the cage and score a game-high seven goals as fifth-seeded Middlebury mooooooved on with a 20-8 rout of No. 4 Brattleboro.
"Middlebury works hard, plays hard, and they are athletic," said Colonels coach Chris Sawyer just after his team was eliminated. "You never know what eight days off will do."
Sawyer added that he wouldn’t have minded playing in the first round instead of having the bye. Nothing to do with the rust factor, he just wanted an extra game.
"They are just a great group of kids," he stated. "This one hurts. It was the last one with these seniors who helped us win the MVL title as freshmen, sophomores and juniors."
None of them had an answer for Usilton.
The attacker tallied twice in the first 3:30 as the visitors stole a 5-0 lead, thanks to a blistering shot from each wing.
"They just made shots and possessed the ball," responded Sawyer, when asked why his team got into the immediate hole.
The Colonels would make things interesting, with goals by Sam Siegel, Brennen Zolnoski and Conner Elliott-Knaggs making it 5-3 late in the first quarter.
The burial by Elliott-Knaggs was the sweetest. With Usilton defending, the BUHS senior received the ball out front on an isolation play and drove right before beating Middlebury goalie Nathan Lalonde.
"We’ve got a game now," screamed the Middlebury coach, whose team then went on a 3-0 run.
With his team trailing 8-3, Elliott-Knaggs scooped up a groundball, sprinted up the left side and passed ahead to Siegel, who made an impressive finish despite being tackled. Elliott-Knaggs would later score himself to make it 8-5 just 5:31 before the break.
But that’s as close as the Colonels could get.
After taking a 10-5 advantage to the intermission, Usilton scored twice in the third and fourth quarters as the Tigers pulled away.
The physical play of the Tigers drew plenty of flags ---the most in any game this season, according to a frustrated Middlebury coach. And one hit, that Sawyer called indefensible, was followed by a Brattleboro player being helped off the field.
"Their defense is really good," noted Sawyer.
Elliott-Knaggs had a hat trick and Siegel added two goals for the 12-5 Colonels. Robyn Avery, Tanner Freeman and "Zolo" all scored once.
The 13-4 Tigers will face No. 1 CVU in the semifinals.
Shane Covey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 163.