O'Neill Scores Five, Wahconah Boys Rally to Move to 6-0
DALTON, Mass. -- Freshman Billy O’Neill scored the tying and game-winning goals in the fourth quarter Thursday as the Wahconah boys lacrosse team came from behind to earn a 12-8 win over Chicopee.
O’Neill scored three times in the fourth quarter and five times in the game to give him a team-leading 17 goals as Wahconah improved to 6-0 this spring.
“Billy O’Neill stepped up,” Wahconah coach Joe O’Neill said of the fourth quarter surge. “He was listening to what I told him to do. He drove with the ball, and that’s what I’m looking for. He’s either going to draw a penalty or get a shot.
“Because of his size, a lot of times, we can draw a penalty because guys will slide up on him. [Chicopee was] disciplined, and they weren’t doing that. But we were still able to slide past them.”
The Pacers matched Wahconah goal-for-goal all day with neither side leading by more than three until the closing moments.
Chicopee scored the only two goals of the third quarter to erase a two-goal half-time deficit and took an 8-7 lead in the second minute of the fourth quarter when Sheamon McColley scored his fifth goal of the game.
In the fifth minute of the quarter, Dayton Kozlowski won a ground ball in Wahconah’s offensive box to secure a possession, and O’Neill made it count moments later when he came in from the left wing, jumped up and delivered a shot that found the back of the goal to tie it, 8-8.
Forty-six seconds later, O’Neill drove from the top middle of the box and through a Chicopee defender to get some shooting space for himself. His overhand shot beat Devin Hammon (11 saves) to give Wahconah the lead for good.
Joe O’Neill said the freshman phenom has had no trouble fitting in with rest of the Wahconah attack.
“He’s come up knowing all of them,” the coach said. “They all knew him, so it wasn’t a surprise. And he’s used to playing summer ball with them and stuff like that.
“I had to make a coaching decision because they weren’t sliding. Defensively, [Chicopee] wasn’t sliding. So that’s when I took out Ernie Lampron, and I put Billy in there. Ernie’s very good off-ball, but they weren’t giving us those off-ball looks. So I had to take what they were giving me, and [Billy] is one of my top dodgers.”
Chicopee scored half of its goals in the first quarter, taking a 4-3 lead when Hunter Terlik intercepted an attempted clearing pass from Wahconah goalie Dom Orlandi and scored with about four minutes left in the period.
From there on, Wahconah’s defense was able to limit the Pacers’ chances.
“We keyed on [McColley],” Joe O’Neill said of the adjustment. “We ran a man [defense] to start out, and we weren’t making the right looks on the slides. We switched and ran a couple of different zones.”
In the second quarter, Wahconah went on a 4-1 run to take a two-goal lead into half-time.
O’Neill and Kozlowski each scored a pair of goals in that stretch, and Conner Noyes helped his team win six of six faceoff tries after moving to the faceoff spot.
“We have two very good faceoff guys, but they have different skill sets,” O’Neill said. “One guy is going to match-up better against different people. At times, Dayton [Kozlowski] will be on a tear and Conner can’t win one. Dayton was having some trouble today, and Conner started winning. And we went with the hot hand.”
No one is hotter in Berkshire County this spring than Wahconah, which is more than halfway to securing a Western Massachusetts tournament bid before some teams have played their third game.
Half of Wahconah’s wins have been by four goals or fewer -- including Thursday’s which was closer than even that margin indicates.
“I know what I have,” O’Neill said. “It’s a really good, strong team. We have strong senior leadership.
“And they’re strong mentally. We have confidence that we can dig ourselves out of a hole if need be. We can play fast, we can play slow. We can dictate the pace of the game typically.”
After winning on back-to-back days, Wahconah has a few well deserved days off before going to Hoosac Valley on Tuesday.