Rocky River City Schools News Article

Bay, River tussle in instant classic: Rocket rally sends RR to 10-9 OT loss

RR Girls Lacrosse

ROCKY RIVER, Ohio (May 25, 2023) -- One goal. Thursday's District II Region 5 title game at Rocky River Stadium -- a tussle against the Bay Rockets that could not be decided in 50 minutes of regulation time -- came down to one goal. One netfinder. And the extra tally went in the Bay side of the ledger in a 10-9 contest knocking the Pirates out of the playoffs.

One score. That goal -- the game-winner -- came two minutes-and-eight seconds into overtime. Flying out of the cross of junior Riley LaVogue and into the net: LaVogue's third goal in the last 11 minutes of play and her fourth of the evening. A 19th goal in a remarkable rivalry battle with an advance to the Buckeye State final four the spoils.

In the end, Thursday's game was remarkably close statistically, with both sides grinding on possessions, clears, scrums for draws and ground balls. Grinding shoulder-to-shoulder on offense and defense, hustling to avoid the desperation of playing nowhere next week. But the game also had expansive mood and momentum swings.

There were surges and swells lifted higher still by a large, enthusiastic crowd. It was a bright, sunny evening at Rocky River Stadium, but a cool one. The crowd -- bedecked (and be-drummed) in Blue & Red and Maroon & White and remembering a taut 11-7 River win over Bay April 20 -- brought plenty of energy. The crisp, crackling, anxious, electric kind.

The opening 17 minutes were loaded with anxiety, but they amounted to a reconnaissance period, with both sides testing the other for seams and weaknesses. What both sides were met with were a lot of strengths.

Despite an early 2-1 lead for the Pirates, the No. 1 seed in the region brackets, the Rockets were getting quality looks with regularity. Scores by Grace DeWitt (Rocky River), Olivia Konopka (Rocky River), and Bridget Brown (Bay) were the punctuation, but the early paragraphs were filled by River turnovers, Rocket shots, and saves by Acadia Hover.

When Reagan Connelly scored a free-position goal at 8:03 of the first half, Rocky River had a 3-1 lead. But Hover had already made three stops, and she would come up with two more alongside a Pirate offensive over the final third of the opening 25 minutes. A game that went into halftime -- after scores by Mackenzie Russell and Kaitlyn Byrne -- with River leading 5-1 could well have been a 5-4 contest if not for Hover and her pool skimmer.  

And that was with fine defensive plays registered in front of River's junior netminder. Early-game Rocket attacks were shouldered aside by defenders Mia Hildebrand and Rayna Kishna or stolen away by fellow defenders Ava Blair and Annika Mocho. Mocho finished the game with three scoops and two spills. She finished the spring with single-season program records in both ground balls (66) and caused turnovers (48).

In the early minutes of the second half, No. 2-seed Bay amped up the pressure on offense. Rocket goals by Jill Tennant (21:32), Meredith Florez (18:36), and LaVogue (16:57) got the visitors within one (5-4). The Raiders had an answer, and Rocky River reeled in goals by Connelly (15:42) and DeWitt (12:37) to extend the advantage to 7-4. But the next 4-1/2 minutes would bring a barrage of Rocket firepower that changed the game.

Beginning with an Ella Boehringer goal at 11:41 and continuing with a Bay man-down effort 80 seconds later (Bridget Brown), the Rockets went on a 4-0 tear to overtake the Pirates on the scoreboard.

The rest of regulation was as tense and thrilling as the sport can get, with game-tying goals by Olivia Konopka (6:55) and DeWitt (0:09) split by a would-be LaVogue game-winner at the 4:08-mark. Hover stemmed the tide of the Rocket attack with a save at 5:20. Bay got a big save from its junior goalkeeper, Ellie Bennett, at the 2:20-mark.

Bennett would make an even bigger save, walling off a dangerous attempt from the doorstep on a nifty Pirate play at 1:50 of overtime. Bay got LaVogue's game-winner ... region-winner ... 58 seconds later.

The junior attacker dodged left, then weaved her way between defenders, bolting toward the cage with speed. She let loose a 4-yard shot, bouncing in the lower right corner of the net. And into Rocket history.

The shot was Bay's 19th of the evening in a game that had 39 shots in all. Of the 32 shots on frame, 13 of those were turned aside by Bennett (7 SV) and Hover (6 SV). (Hover also filed two ground balls and a caused turnover.) Draws were an 11-10 exchange, with the Pirates edging the Rockets. Ground balls were a 9-9 tussle. The Pirates righted the ship after some early miscues to finish as a plus-5 in turnovers (10, 15).

LaVogue (4G), Brown (2G), and Tennant (2G) were the top scorers for the now-headed-to-a-DII semifinal-against-Hathaway Brown team from Bay Village. It is a Rockets team that has won eight in a row.

The Pirates got three goals, two ground balls, two caused turnovers, and two draw controls from DeWitt. Connelly and Konopka each had two goals. Kaitlyn Byrne's lone goal marked her 50th of the season; DeWitt's final goal -- the effort that sent River into overtime -- was her 50th of the year as well.

That look at the aforementioned team stats -- for both sides -- unveils a lot of events, "things" -- the nuts and bolts of a game. The passes, turnovers, scoops, spills, shots, misses, saves, and goals. And even those items are just a surface-y book account of action in this particular game. On the evening of May 25, 2023, that action was almost always competent, usually impressive, and sometimes brilliant. Minute after minute. Strong plays made in the corners, the gritty areas near the cage, between the 30s ... and between the ears.

Bay (19-3) now advances in the state tournament on the margin of one goal. In this latest War by the Shore, the Rockets got their Score by the Shore. It was followed by a Roar by the Shore. And perhaps some Pirate fans Swore by the Shore.

But for one-goal-short Rocky River (16-4), there is still some Lore by the Shore to this game and this 2023 season. Something to be remembered-For by the Shore. And that's the Pirates' swashbuckling style of play.

Coach Colleen Hile and her staff wanted their Striped Buccaneers to play All Out. And that was the team's mantra and mindset all spring: All Out. But you can't just slap those words on a tee-shirt to make it so. This River team played All Out, all the time, all over. Home and away. Regular season, postseason. These Bucs were all-in on All Out. And in all ways. That was the One Goal. All Out for their colors. All Out for each other.

That's what it was all For by the Shore.

by Skip Snow

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