Schmell Nets Lacrosse Milestone
But Visiting Middlebury Hands Wasps First Loss of Season
Woodstock defenseman Jesse Davis prepares to shoot and score his team’s first goal yesterday against visiting Middlebury. The Wasps lost, 8-6, their first loss in six games. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Woodstock High midfielder Oliver Kaija, second from left, moves out of a crowd yesterday alongside teammate Nikolai Davis (9). (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Woodstock — Sometimes, an impending milestone can become a millstone, as Woodstock High lacrosse’s Hunter Schmell learned in recent days.
The senior attackman scored three times last Thursday in a defeat of Rutland, pushing him to 99 for his prep career. In the four-day runup to yesterday’s game with visiting Middlebury, the anticipation surrounding tally 100 grew and grew.
“There was a lot of pressure, for sure,” said Schmell, whose team lost 8-6 after falling into a 6-1 hole during the first half. “I was ready to score it and move on, but I was definitely forcing it more than I should have and it hurt our offensive momentum.”
The Wasps just weren’t themselves in suffering their first loss of the season. Passing, catching and even simple cradling of the ball all presented substantial challenges for the hosts at times. Schmell took low-percentage shots from long range, goaltender Ben Orr allowed several goals from sharp angles and defenseman Ed Doton, often dominant, was also off his game. It added up to a disappointing result for a program that is targeting the Vermont Division I title game.
“The energy wasn’t there,’’ said Woodstock coach Brandon Little. “I guess they laid in the sun for four days and didn’t have the proper mentality for our biggest rivalry game. Middlebury definitely wanted it more than we did.”
Schmell, who will play NCAA Division III lacrosse at Stevenson University in Maryland next season, wanted so badly to score his big goal that he uncharacteristically took a shoot-first, pass-second approach during the first half.
The back of each game program was emblazoned with the phrase “HUNTER SCHMELL 100 GOALS” but the man of the hour didn’t dent the twine until the third quarter, when he received an Oliver Kaija feed and beat Tigers netminder Nathan Lalonde. Schmell immediately ran to retrieve the ball from the dusty crease, but his team still trailed, 6-4.
“I think Hunter had a lot of nerves,’’ Little said. “These are still young kids and there are life lessons like this that they have to go through. We have a lot of new players getting time and they’re really catching on, but we didn’t have that whole team chemistry today.”
Woodstock, which reached the division semifinals two years ago and the quarterfinals last spring, surrendered yesterday’s first two goals before towering defenseman Jesse Davis split the Tigers defense and scored with his long pole while leaping into the air.
Middlebury scored the next four goals, however, before Kaija tallied on another jump shot after taking a Schmell pass with 57 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Kaija scored again 32 seconds into the third stanza and James Durand hit the post a minute later, before Schmell got his marker to pull the Wasps within 6-4.
Middlebury pushed its lead to 7-4 before Kaija completed his hat trick on a left-side run and Nehemiah Wood ripped a 15-yard shot under the crossbar from the center of the field to pull Woodstock within 7-6 with 6:30 to play. The Tigers closed the scoring a minute later, then maintained possession for long stretches, snuffing the life out of the Wasps hopes for a full comeback.
Schmell finished with a goal and two assists and was left frustrated by the offense’s inability to fire on all cylinders. The graduation loss of last season’s attack co-star, Andrew Kimbell, has allowed opposing defenses to focus more narrowly on No. 7.
“I’m getting real close man-to-man defense, right on my hands,’’ said Schmell, “I’m getting locked off and it’s frustrating, but I have to get the ball to other people.
“The other four attackman in our rotation are all first-year varsity players and this level was probably a shock to them at the start of the season. We were more sloppy at first, but now they’re coming into it and we’re working on getting better every day.”
Notes: First-year Middlebury coach Dennis Smith is a 1982 Woodstock graduate. His team was about to give a shout-out to the opposing “Hornets” after the game before Smith intervened and corrected them… One of the most noticeable Wasps players was diminutive midfielder Nikolai Davis, one of just three freshmen on the team… Middlebury is 5-1 with its only loss to powerful Essex this spring. The Panthers have won state-best seven division titles and once appeared in 13 consecutive championship games but were a combined 2-20 in 2010 and 2011.
Tris Wykes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 603-727-3227.