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Section 3 lacrosse: Cyclones connect in second half

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After shaking off a slow start, Watertown’s boys lacrosse team amped up its game just in time in its sectional opener against Whitesboro on Saturday.

Junior attackman Eric Soderquist totaled eight points, including four goals, and sophomore midfielder Noah Taylor scored three goals and assisted on two others as the fourth-seeded Cyclones downed the fifth-seeded Warriors, 17-11 in a Section 3 quarterfinal in Class B at Watertown High School.

“This means a lot,” Taylor said. “We came into this game focused as a team on finishing our shots. The best part of the game today was the attack and the transition coming from the defense — we were working hard and getting fast breaks.”

Senior attackman Kendall Vecchio tallied three goals and an assist for Watertown (11-6 overall), which advances to the semifinal round for the third consecutive season.

“We’re fairly happy with the state of the program,” Watertown coach Brian Navarra said. “We’ve been in the semifinals before, but we need to step it up and take it to the next level — we aspire to do more than just reach the semifinals.”

Now the Cyclones know they’ll have to elevate their game even farther as they’ll face top-seeded and perennial state power Jamesville-DeWitt (15-1), which is ranked No. 2 in the state in Class B, in a semifinal 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Central Square.

“It’s a great win,” said Soderquist, “because we played as a team and moved the ball better than we have all year. This will give us good confidence going into Wednesday.”

Navarra let his team know he wasn’t happy with their play in first half and they responded in the final 24 minutes.

“I was not pleased at all with our overall effort in the first half,” Navarra said of the Cyclones, who have won nine of their past 10 games. “But then the kids got together at halftime — some of leaders stepped up and were vocal and got the team going in the second half.”

“He just got us riled up and he’s pretty good at that,” Taylor said. “When he gets intense, we get intense. He has just as much passion for the game that we do.”

With Watertown leading 8-6 through the first half, Taylor helped provide a spark in the third quarter by scoring his team’s first two goals on a pair of unassisted efforts within a span of one minute and 40 seconds.

Taylor’s second goal of the period provided Watertown with a 10-7 lead, which it would expand to a four-goal advantage, before Whitesboro (9-8) struck for two goals within 18 seconds to again to draw within 11-9.

Vecchio responded by finishing off a feed from Soderquist with 1:09 remaining in the third quarter and the two would hook up again as Soderquist buried a pass from Vecchio 1:05 into the fourth quarter to build a 13-9 lead. The Cyclones would extend the run into a six-goal surge to pull away against the Warriors.

“We prepared for this game,” Whitesboro coach Sean Temple said. “They came out strong against us in the second half and we just couldn’t get it together offensively.”

Junior goalie Austin Gibson made eight saves to register the win for Watertown with several key stops in the second half as he denied a bid by Chris Wurz on a rush with 2:35 left in the third quarter, after Whitesboro had pulled within two (9-7) for the final time.

“We didn’t panic and kept our composure,” Navarra said. “And finally in the second half, we started playing the way we’re capable of.”

The Cyclones will now prepare for Jamesville-DeWitt, the reigning Section 3 champion, which has won a state title in two of the past three seasons.

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