ALACHUA — Friday night’s boys’ lacrosse matchup between the Gainesville Hurricanes (4-2) and the Santa Fe Raiders (9-4) provided a prime opportunity for both programs.
For Santa Fe, it was an opportunity to celebrate their 10 seniors and the legacy the group left in the Raiders’ lacrosse program.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes would have a chance to avenge their loss to the Raiders earlier in the season. Santa Fe defeated Gainesville 11-3 on February 18.
After a tight affair with few goals, Santa Fe defended their home field and clinched a 5-4 win.
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A fight from the start
Friday night’s fight was physical from the start.
After just 21 seconds of play, Bishop McCoy, the second fullback for the Gainesville Hurricanes, suffered a violent rib bump that ended his night.
“That hurt,” said Gainesville head coach Tony Malo. “That changed the game. He’s our engine. Bishop is a fantastic team-mate, he’s a great player and the second he went down I knew it was going to go wrong. But we persevered.”
The Raiders stayed on the canes throughout the game, making it difficult for Gainesville to get clean shots on goal.
Santa Fe was particularly aggressive with Gainesville senior TJ Martinez-Malo, who led the Hurricanes in scoring Friday night.
“They just beat him up,” Malo said of Santa Fe’s defense against Martinez-Malo. “They locked him out and eliminated him. So your game plan probably worked.”
Martinez-Malo was kept scoreless on Friday night, forcing other Gainesville players to step up.
Senior Travis Kalishman led the Hurricanes with two goals while teammates Dylan Brown and Connor Depue had one goal each.
Kyle Cooper strong on the net
You wouldn’t guess that Santa Fe Sr. Kyle Cooper is relatively new to the sport of lacrosse. But that’s exactly the case, said Raiders head coach Joey Mandese.
“He’s a second-year player and he’s been playing like he’s been playing since he was 8,” Mendese said. “But he’s only held a cane for two years.”
Cooper got away with big saves against the Hurricanes, especially in the first half of the game. Ten of Cooper’s 13 saves came in the first half.
“He works and trains hard,” Mendese continued. “He works outside of training and invests his time. Every time we ask him if he wants to meet up with a goalkeeper coach and spend a few hours at the weekend, he says ‘of course’.”
The Raiders’ offensive picks up in the second half
After junior James Smith took the lead with the night’s opening goal, Santa Fe gave up the lead after the Hurricanes netted two unanswered goals.
The Raiders leveled the game just before halftime when senior Julien Rivas scored a goal at 2:37 to play in the second quarter.
But from the break, Santa Fe fired on all cylinders, scoring a trio of unanswered goals in the space of five minutes.
“The problem we had in the first two quarters was that we didn’t move the ball,” Mandese said. “After halftime we challenged our guys to spread out and move the ball… do what we can. It was an easy pass and catch.”
The Raiders’ big third quarter helped them seal the deal against the Hurricanes, who put Santa Fe back in the winning column after a two-game slip that saw Buchholz and Tallahassee Maclay lose.
Smith, Rivas, senior Anthony Collins, junior Tyson Geer and senior Drew Taylor scored for Santa Fe on Friday.
After the Raiders win, they will look to host St. Joseph Academy on Monday night at 7 p.m. Gainesville, meanwhile, will try to recover on Thursday when Jacksonville hosts Stanton at 6 p.m