COVENTRY — The Coventry club lacrosse team probably thought the first home match in school history would be played on pristine grass in front of a large crowd on a beautiful, sunny New England spring day.
There was a decent crowd at Wednesday’s historic event, but the weather was the antithesis of what the players were hoping for.
On a day more suited for lugging than lacrosse, the Oakers battled visting Westerly to a 7-7 tie after the Bulldogs scored the tying goal in the final minute. Even though his team didn’t win its second game to start the program’s history, program coordinator Ralph Izzi said the players were still winners.
“This is not the weather we were expecting for our home opener, but it is New England and you have to expect this,” Izzi said while trying to dodge thick snow flakes and rain on a raw, 37-degree day. “The victory today is actually playing the game. That’s the victory.”
Coventry thought it had secured the victory on the field when senior captain Dallas Blue scored from close range on an extra-man opportunity to put the Oakers ahead with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Westerly, which played more aggressive than Cranston East did last Friday, won the ensuing face-off and scored. For Blue, the chance to play on the school’s football field at the end of his senior season is special because the all-division running back thought he would never play another competitive game on the field after losing to West Warwick in the annual Thanksgiving Day Classic. “I thought it was going to be raining – at worst,” Blue said after orchestrating Coventry’s offense. “It was sloppy out there, but it was still a lot of fun. I never thought it’d be possible to play on this field again, but it’s fun to do it. It means a lot to all of us.” Fellow captain Matt LeBrun had never played on the football field because he only played basketball, but he loved his first home-game experience. “It’s just crazy, it’s my first time playing on this field since I don’t play football, it was fun,” the affable LeBrun said. “You know what? It realty doesn’t matter what the conditions are, I just wanted to play. I just wanted to be out here.” In the game itself, the Oakers came out the stronger of the two teams and went ahead 2-0. Because both teams are still learning to play as a team, there were a lot of ground balls and the Oakers’ aggression and hitting allowed them to win the ground-ball battle. After building a 2-0 lead Coventry started committing stick penalties which allowed Westerly to work its way back into the game. Coventry held a 4-3 lead at halftime. Westerly reduced its turnovers and started taking advantage of its transition opportunities in the second half. The Bulldogs tied the game at six before Blue scored on the extra man. Zach Allen had two goals and Alex Izzi chipped in with a goal. “We’re figuring out what we need to do and what everyone is good at and where everyone needs to be,” Blue said. “A couple more practices we should be good. Playing lacrosse now means a lot to me because I’ve played my whole life and this is the first time I’ve had a chance to play for the school.” “I’ve seen a lot of growth, the kids can catch the ball with both hands, not everyone could do that last week,” said LeBrun, who is a first-year player. “It’s great to get this into the school and open up opportunities for other kids.” Izzi hopes the Oakers can become one of the 18 schools in the Interscholastic League to develop a varsity lacrosse program in the last 10 years. Even though his team can only play for a club championship, Izzi believes his team could compete with the likes of Scituate, Smithfield, Toll Gate and Warwick Vets in Division III.\ “In the (RIIL) is where we want this program to be,” said Izzi. “Given that we have a thriving youth program and the school stands to have 70 new kids who play lacrosse. I think we could compete in Division III, I think we could do that now.” Coventry has finally cleared the hurdle of firsts. The Oakers played their first game, scored their first goal and won their first contest last week against Cranston East. Thursday, the Oakers finally played their first home game.