Lebanon — The Lebanon High boys lacrosse team opened its campaign on Thursday the same way it closed out the regular season last spring — with a one-goal loss to Bishop Brady.
Despite a 10-9 defeat to the Green Giants in an NHIAA Division III matchup, the Raiders produced several highlights, including a multi-pronged scoring attack and a strong outing by rookie goalie Caiden Skalalski.
Four different players scored for Lebanon (0-1), led by Nate Damren’s hat trick. Damren’s younger brother, Aaron, scored two goals, Jamison Rios netted a pair and Luke Sandmann and Jordan Hammond each added one. Nate Chickering contributed two assists.
“We’re not relying on any one, two, three different people,” said Raiders coach Rob Fett, who made his debut with the boys team on Thursday after assisting on Lebanon’s girls team for the last five years. “We have a balanced attack, meaning the attack is set up to score as well as the midfield is set up to score. That’s how our schemes go.”
Lebanon got off to a slow start, allowing the Giants (1-1) to score 33 seconds into the contest and again with 7:48 remaining in the first quarter. Just when it looked like Bishop Brady might keep rolling, Rios took matters into his own hands, driving downfield and notching the Raiders’ first goal of the season.
Rios collected the ball at midfield and accelerated, riding a wave of Raider frustration stemming from its two defensive mishaps. The senior midfielder sustained a powerful check from the right side on his way toward Brady goalie Craig Newcomb. Rios buried the shot on the lower-right side and subsequently reined in the momentum-building Giants.
Chickering followed up the Rios icebreaker by picking up a ground ball 20 yards from the goal, then finding a streaking Nate Damren in front of the left side of the net. Chickering threaded the needle perfectly, delivering to Damren in stride.
Sandmann capped the first quarter’s scoring by cleaning up the rebound from a nice Newcomb save of a Chickering bid.
Thursday’s matchup was closely contested throughout, with neither team building a lead greater than two goals. The hosts led 7-6 at halftime.
Then came the drought.
Despite dominating time of possession and keeping the ball largely in the Giants’ zone, Lebanon couldn’t muster a goal the entire third quarter. Luckily, the Raiders’ defense was in lockdown mode, allowing only one blemish during the same timeframe.
Nate Damren scored in the fourth quarter’s opening minute to end the Raiders’ lull off a feed from Hammond. Damren broke down his defender with a spin move on the left side, putting the hosts back on top, but only for a fleeting minute as Bishop Brady responded by scoring three straight goals.
The Raiders rallied late with a Hammond goal, assisted by Nate Damren, with 2:16 to go, but it wasn’t quite enough against a team that defeated Lebanon 7-6 in overtime in last year’s regular-season finale.
“Our defense was not talking at all in the first half; that was the biggest problem,” Bishop Brady coach Justin Loring said. “There was no communication, which led to fast breaks. Once they started talking to each other — they were really a little high-strung — they chilled out and were able to figure out where their men where.”
Fett seemed impressed with goaltender Skalalski’s efforts.
“I think our goalie, who’s only been playing lacrosse for three and a half weeks, did an outstanding job,” Fett said.
Aaron Damren echoed his coach’s statements, describing the new netminder’s 10-save performance as “pretty amazing.”
Thursday’s contest marked just the fourth day of outside play for Lebanon, which had its season opener Tuesday at ConVal postponed by weather.
“It was a long winter,” Rios said. “It’s good to be outside.”
Fett spoke to the difficulties that come from limited practice time.
“We didn’t get to work on a lot of the facets of the game,” Fett said. “We practiced faceoffs for the first time yesterday outside, and we spent about 10 minutes. ... We ran into a very well-played team in Bishop Brady. They played like gentlemen. We were prepared, but not prepared enough to beat them.”