- Scott Barboza, ESPN Staff Writer
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WALPOLE, Mass. – Walking away from an 8-7 win over Walpole in a Division 2 tournament preliminary round matchup, Foxborough head coach Matt Noone referred to his team as the “Road Warriors.”
His Warriors have proved themselves a worthy adversary on the road during the regular season, and they were want to continue the trend on Tuesday facing the Rebels. They ran with it.
“We took the adversity, we took the seed, and we went, ‘alright, let’s prove what we can do,’” Noone said.
Despite trailing the Rebels 5-3 at half, Foxborough (13-7) pulled ahead in the third on the backs of attackmen Tyler Ames and Kyle Sperzel, who both tallied hat tricks.
Yet, it all came down to the defense, as Walpole (11-8) made it a one-goal game late in the fourth. In the final minute, with possession and coming out of a timeout, the Rebels cycled the ball around the attacking zone, looking for attack Chris Frye, who’d already scored five goals (for six points) on the afternoon. With less than 30 seconds to play, Warriors senior pole Ryan Smith sealed the victory, forcing a Rebels turnover with a deft stick check.
While the Rebels – in particular Frye – were able to get theirs, the Warriors held (just enough) when it counted most.
“Nice little slap check there,” Noone said of Smith’s crucial defensive play. “I had Brendan [Lovely] on [Frye] at the beginning of the game, but Brendan was a little too aggressive on him. So I wanted to change it. Lukey [Valenza] ended up on him for a while in the third quarter and then Ryan ended up on him.”
However, the defensive struggle against the Rebels began even before the game’s start, with Foxborough’s coaching staff implementing a zone defense.
“We knew they like the inverts, so we put a zone in today and I think our zone did well today,” Noone added.
It was a bittersweet end for the Rebels, in particular Frye – a 60-goal scorer this year who ended the season with a dazzling display of skill and a pure nose for the cage.
“It was a game of runs,” Rebels head coach Jason Andalo said. “We made ours early, they made theirs late and we came up one short.”