The Pilgrim Patriots boys lacrosse team outdueled the Toll Gate Titans 8-2 on Thursday night at Pilgrim.
Pilgrim was led by junior attackers Matt Pacheco, who scored three goals and added an assist, Kyle St. Jean, who had three goals and senior middle fielder Cam Meloccaro, who tallied two goals and an assist.
“They look good,” Pilgrim head coach Alexander Gregson said of his team. “What I’d like to see more of is them put together a whole game. We came out, we got a shutout in the first quarter and we put up five. This team is more than capable of putting up big numbers, it’s just they show up when they want to show up. To me, that was a game that, although it’s a win and I’ll take the win, we didn’t play our best.”
Pats’ senior goaltender Tyler Balutowski was solid in net, stopping seven of the nine shots that came his way.
“He is phenomenal,” Gregson said. “He’s been our starting goalie for the last two years and he’s just amazing. I couldn’t ask for a better goalie, a better kid, a better captain of this team. He comes up big when we need him to. He makes the saves that he should, and he makes a lot of saves that he shouldn’t make. I’ve coached for six years and I’ve worked with a lot of good goalies, some very good goalies back at Vets, but he’s something else. He’s top of the line.”
Balutowski, who was a backup before moving between the pipes in his sophomore season, appreciated the praise by his coach. Balutowski took over after the team’s last goaltender graduated.
“It’s an honor,” Balutowski said. “I really wasn’t even going to play lacrosse because I played hockey, but my teammates just kind of convinced me to try it out because when that senior was gone I was going to be the only hope, so if feels really good to be able to grow up and get that as a compliment.”
“I started off my freshman year as a pole,” Balutowski continued. “I used to play crease and then I kind of stepped in between the pipes and there was just like a natural high, the exhilaration of seeing a shot come at you and then just the ability to stop it. There’s nothing else like it.”
Pilgrim got its first goal just before the sound of the buzzer ending period 1 when senior middle fielder Mike Matarese dished to Pacheco and he rifled it into the net from 25 yards out and put the Pats up 1-0.
Then with 9:11 remaining in the second quarter, Matarese found Pacheco again and he netted his second goal and extended Pilgrim’s edge to 2-0.
Twenty-eight seconds after that, Pacheco assisted to St. Jean and he lit the lamp, giving the Pats a 3-0 advantage.
With 4:30 remaining in the first half, Pilgrim’s St. Jean sniped in a shot from 23 yards out during a power play and increased Pilgrim’s cushion to 4-0.
Twenty-five seconds later, St. Jean found Meloccaro, who executed a spin move before firing it past Toll Gate goaltender Trevor Mathews, putting the Pats up 5-0 at halftime.
Toll Gate got its first goal of the game with 10:43 remaining in the fourth quarter when sophomore James Caruso assisted across to Kyle O’Keefe, also a sophomore, and he snuck it over Balutowski’s right shoulder after the goaltender came out to defend him.
“He got a good open field ground ball and just transitioned it well, kept his eyes up, saw Kyle right in front of the crease, gave him a good feed and Kyle finished and got us our first goal,” Toll Gate head coach Mike Vadney said.
Five minutes later, Toll Gate’s Ezra Cox dished to David Roa and he lit the lamp and pulled the Titans within 5-2.
Pilgrim stopped any momentum the Titans had 42 seconds later when Meloccaro scored his second goal of the contest and gave the Pats a 6-2 lead.
Later with 3:10 remaining, Pacheco charged from behind the net and put a backhand past Mathews, putting the Pats up 7-2.
With two minutes remaining, St. Jean waltzed in and fired it past Mathews and extended the Pats advantage to 8-2.
Toll Gate head coach Michael Vadney believes the reason for his team’s offensive struggles is due to their lack of experience.
“We’ve just had some issues offensively this year,” Vadney said. “Out of last year’s offense, five of them are gone. So, last year’s offense, we put up over 120 goals. So, we’re putting some guys in there now that weren’t there last year. So, it’s been a lot of growing pains as far as that’s concerned.”