Heaving sticks and gloves into the air, Tiverton-Rogers Co-op lacrosse players mobbed goalie Sean King Sunday afternoon as they celebrated an unlikely ride to the team’s first championship.
They’d just beaten Coventry in a hard-fought 8-7 Division II state championship game. Not only was it the Tiger-Vikings’ first title, this year saw the team win its first-ever playoff game during a run that took them to an overall record of 16-2. The reward for Head Coach Shane Parker — an ice-cold Gatorade drenching at the hands of his players.
Despite a dominating season, the final two playoff series games were far from easy, Coach Parker said. Both were close games decided at the very end, first against Burrillville/North Smithfield and then the final against Coventry.
The Tiger-Vikings faced Burrillville/North Smithfield at Tiverton High School on a chilly 40 degree night. Both teams fought hard to maintain the lead in a first half that featured ties and lead changes throughout. The score was tied 5-5 at halftime.
The lead changed hands several more times throughout third and fourth quarters. And it remained tied 11-11 with five minutes left in the fourth when Tiverton scored two goals within a minute and held the Burrillville/North Smithfield team scoreless for the final four minutes of the fourth quarter en route to the 13-11 victory.
The Tiger-Vikings were led on offense by tri-captain Liam Leys who had three goals and four assists. Tri-captain Cole Criollos and Colin Greenman, also had three goals with Criollos adding an assist to his point total. Stefan Bebe, and Tom McKinnon each had two goals, and freshman Greg Johanning added two assists to round out the scoring for the Tiger-Vikings. Senior, Sean King came up big in goal as he made 13 saves in the game.
The Tiger-Vikings next faced Coventry on Sunday in the championship game at Brown University’s Stevenson Field on abright, sunny almost 80-degree day —a large contrast from the 40-degree game played four days earlier.
The Tiger-Vikings and Coventry had tied for the regular season Division III title, both having records of 12-1 in the division, but the Tiger-Vikings won the tiebreaker as they had beaten Coventry 11-5 in the regular season an outcome that gave the Tiger-Vikings the division title and the number one seed in the playoffs.
In the championship game, the Tiger-Vikings jumped out to an early 1-0 lead and never looked back as they lead throughout the entire game.
Tiverton went into halftime with a 6-4 lead but Coventry pulled to within a goal at 6-5 early in the third quarter. The Tiger-Vikings responded with two straight goals to make the score 8-5 before Coventry scored two straight to make it close at 8-7 in the fourth quarter.
The Tiger-Vikings defense did not allow another goal as the horn sounded with the score 8-7 and the Tiger-Vikings holding their first division title trophy..
The Tiger-Vikings were led on offense by Liam Leys with two goals and two assists, a performance that led to his selection as most valuable player in the Division III title game.
Leys led the Tiger-Vikings’ offense throughout the year as he ended the season with 101 points (49 goals and 52 assists). Stefan Bebe also had two goals and two assists, Colin Greenman had two goals and one assist, Greg Johanning had two goals, and Cole Criollos rounded out the scoring with two assists. The Tiger-Vikings were led on defense by goalie Sean King, who had 15 saves, along with his three starting defensemen, Nate Johanning, Brett Martin, and Riley Bolan.
Coach Parker is in his fifth year as the head coach of the Tiger-Vikings and has been able to improve the team’s yearly win total every year since he took the helm.