Lenape Valley was speed-dialing its offensive sets in the game's opening minutes, as if informed it could improve upon a 1-3 record with shots that were judged purely by volume or velocity instead of quality.
It didn't take long, though, for the Patriots to realize that all they were really doing was readily offering the ball back to Pequannock, raising the level of difficulty for young goalie Dan Hosler and expediting an unwanted class trip to 1-4.
"In the beginning of the game we were rushing it," junior attackman Kyle Shannon said. "Our coach (Kevin Earl) at the end of the first quarter said we just had to settle everything down, find our moments, make everything come to us. We just had to wait and be patient."
Lenape Valley found both virtue and tasty shot opportunities from patience, as Shannon finished with four goals and two assists and senior attackman Mike Cirone scored three times and assisted once to rally the Patriots to an 11-9 win over Pequannock in an exciting Pooley Division contest Wednesday afternoon in Stanhope.
Lenape Valley (2-3) snapped a two-game losing streak and also avenged a 16-4 loss to the Panthers a year ago. Pequannock fell to 3-2.
While the Lenape Valley offense located its footing behind a more deliberate approach, Hosler stepped forward in just his second varsity start to turn Pequannock's very promising beginning (a 4-1 first-quarter lead) into a surprising setback. He turned away seven shots in the second quarter as his club knotted the score at 5-5 and closed with 17 saves against a number of talented shooters.
One of them, junior attackman Ryan Macejka, banged in five goals and added two assists to give him a team-high 17 goals for the season. Freshman middie Bryan Peters scored two goals and had one assist and senior middie Shane Lilenthal--who recently surpassed 100 career points--contributed one goal and three assists for the Panthers.
"I knew they had good shooters and they came in hot," Hosler said. "I talked to the defense and said, 'Hey, guys, let's just give it our all,' and they did. They backed me up every single second. I give the win to them more than me."
Hosler got his first start Monday against Lakeland after senior starter Chad DiRupo injured a knee in the previous game. Lakeland was in front, 7-4, after three quarters and pulled away for an 11-5 victory.
"I was a little nervous that first start," Hosler said. "But I came into this game and said now I have the feel of it. I have to do better than I did in that game."
The slower pace of the Lenape Valley offense certainly helped Hosler pause to gather his thoughts after withstanding a 17-shot barrage by Pequannock in the first quarter. The shots kept coming after that period, only they were a bit deeper and Hosler was seeing them much better.
Cirone began Lenape Valley's offensive restoration project with two goals in the first 3:20 of the second quarter to narrow the deficit to 4-3. Macejka gave Pequannock a two-goal lead with 8:26 remaining, but Shannon scored with 5:51 left and Cirone connected again 2:35 later to tie the game before the half.
The Patriots were suddenly the antithesis of rushed, sticking those four goals on only five shots in the quarter. They also connected on three of their first five attempts of the third (two by Shannon) to grab an 8-7 lead that would grow to 10-7 by the end of the period.
"We settled it, moved the ball around and let the opportunities come to us," Cirone said. "We started at 1-3, but I really feel as though we're starting to pick it up. That showed here. We're playing more as a team."
Lenape Valley was 8-7 last spring and lost over 100 points from that season with the graduations of Mike Squillante and Joey McMahon. Shannon netted 36 goals as a sophomore, but the rest of the offense came in largely untested.
"I think this year we can be a more balanced offense. We're more well-rounded, I believe," Shannon said.
Corry Boyle scored two goals, Bruce Engelhardt added one goal and two assists and Nick DeLorenzo scored once for Lenape Valley. Boyle, a senior, forged a 10-7 lead late in the third quarter when he stuffed home a tight feed to the crease by Shannon, and opened an 11-8 advantage 4:34 into the fourth with another strong off-ball cut to the goal to convert a pass from Engelhardt.
"We knew Kyle Shannon would be one of our top scorers and DeLorenzo is a good dodger," Cirone said. "But you've got to move without the ball to be a really good offense. We haven't been doing that too much, but today we did a great job of it."
The efficient productivity of that offense in the final three quarters had Hosler breathing much easier following his turbulent first quarter. But fact is, those teammates had put his mind at ease long before the opening faceoff.
"During practice they came up to me and said, 'Hey, don't worry about it. If you let a couple in, keep your head up. We've got you. We'll protect you,' " Hosler said. "That helped me so much. I felt like they always had my back. That's huge."
Mike Kinney covers boys lacrosse for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS