Riverside boys lax champs

The Riverside Rams enter the state playoffs with momentum after winning the Region 4C tournament title.--Times-Mirror/Jason Rufner

The Riverside Rams avenged their only loss this season to a fellow Class 4 team with a 10-7 win Thursday night on the home field of the top-seed Dominion Titans in the Region 4C boys' lacrosse tournament championship game.

The Rams (15-2), the region’s No. 2 seed, held the top-seeded Titans (13-4) to two goals in the first half, then repelled a Dominion comeback attempt with a three-goal outburst in the fourth quarter.

“Our guys call them ‘Riverside runs,’” Riverside head coach Nick Worek said. “It’s about handling pressure situations. We really put pressure on our guys so they can handle them, because there’s going to be an uncomfortable moment in every game you’ll have to play through.”

The 13-11 loss the Rams took against the Titans in their May 3 regular-season matchup was on the minds of the Riverside players.

“Hat’s off to Dominion. Every time we play them, it’s a classic matchup. It’s such a battle, they’re so well coached, they play so hard,” said Worek, who led the Rams to last year’s regional championship with a win over Dominion.

“They got us the first time. We got them this time. I’m sure we’ll see each other again down the road at some point,” he continued. “But I’m so proud of our kids’ effort. They just keep answering.”

The game was an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel through the first 24 minutes. The Titans scored twice within the opening four minutes, but the Rams ran off four unanswered to take a 4-2 halftime lead.

The two defenses shined as Dominion’s tall defenseman Mark Schroeder interfered with multiple Riverside passes, and senior goalie Ben Rankin stood on his head with nine first-half saves.

But Riverside’s defense made a habit out of swatting the ball out of Titan sticks and scooping up the resulting ground balls.

“We played extremely hard defensively against such a powerful offense,” said Worek, who had particular praise for freshman defenseman John Schroter. “He was all over the field, he’s so rangy. Unbelievable effort, really all our defense down there.”

Schroter said the Riverside defense put pressure on the ball throughout the game to limit Dominion’s open shots.

“It’s our whole team. We all play really tough defense, really tight in,” the freshman said. “Tonight everyone played phenomenal. We were flying out there.”

The home crowd got loud when Dominion scored the last goal of the third quarter and the first goal of the fourth, bringing them within 7-5 with 11:23 to play.

That’s when the Rams turned up the pressure, getting steals, winning draws and putting in three quick goals for a 10-5 advantage by the 8:00 mark.

Worek noted the work of face-off specialist Evan Park, a junior midfielder.

“What a difference-maker when he’s on his game winning draws,” the coach said.

The Titans put in the game’s final two tallies, but in a contest starved for offense, the deficit was too large and the Rams earned the celebration.

Both squads have berths in the Virginia Class 4 state tournament, opening May 31. Riverside hosts Fauquier while Dominion travels to Kettle Run.

Riverside 10, Dominion 7

Goals: R 10 (Mitchell Pehlke 4, Taylor Musa 2, William Ash, Bennett Kasoff, Brittain Kasoff, Daniel Maltz); D 7 (Alex Brendes 2, Aidan Smith 2, Brendan Dillon, Zach Davis, Justin Guilfoyle)

Assists: R 6 (William Ash, Nick Callis, Brittain Kasoff, Daniel Maltz, Mitchell Pehlke, John Schroter); D 5 (Alex Brendes 4, Ryan Demangos)

Saves: R 7 (Josh Ruwe); D 12 (Ben Rankin)

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