KEYSER, W.Va. — Facing a massive deficit to Anne Arundel during the second half on Wednesday, WVU Potomac State refused to capitulate.
The Catamounts only have one sub, backup goalkeeper Michael London. So, while the Riverhawks were swapping in fresh bodies left and right, PSC was gasping for air.
After putting up a fight in the first half, Potomac State was on empty, as Anne Arundel cruised to a 23-3 victory.
“It’s a tough one for the pure factor of numbers,” PSC head coach Jason Grace said. “It’s 11 guys going up against 20, 23 guys. But, playing Anne Arundel is always going to be special to me because I used to coach there.
“I think we did well, we fought the entire 60 minutes, which is very nice. In a situation like this, it’s very easy for a team to give up and put their heads down, and these guys never gave up. As a coach, that’s all you can ask for.”
The roster deficiency is a direct result of COVID-19. Potomac State was supposed to have 24 players, but because many of the players aren’t local, many decided to go home prior to the season due to all the uncertainty.
The Catamounts won each of their first two affairs, edging Carroll 8-6 and Delaware Technical 17-6. But neither are on the level of Anne Arundel, where Grace served as head coach from 2015-16.
Trevor Collier, who ended with a game-high eight goals, whipped a pass to John Thibodeau for the first of his six scores just more than a minute in. Every Riverhawk possession had a clear progression, with their coaches barking out play calls to set up easy score after easy score.
Anne Arundel led 7-2 after one and 12-3 at the half, before winning by 20.
Potomac State had some highlights of its own during the opening half.
Catamount midfielder Haven Tyson gained possession on his own side. Streaking down the sideline, he planted his right foot and used a swim move to cut inside and break Bobby Ruel’s ankles, who tumbled to the turf.
Tyson then found Matthew Smith open in the crease, and Smith beat keeper Conner Westervelt to slot it in the cage for the first of his two goals on the afternoon.
Smith’s second score also came in the first, and midfielder Christian Darnall tallied the Catamounts’ other goal early in the second quarter to make it 8-3.
But Anne Arundel completely dominated the rest of the way, scoring the game’s next 15 goals to pull away. The Riverhawks outshot PSC, 35-8.
While the first half was a battle between the two teams, the second was waged between Potomac State and themselves.
Conditioning was paramount, and tired legs and airless lungs prevented the Catamounts from having a shot at containing the Riverhawks or putting a goal in the cage themselves.
Instead, the challenge became one of resolve. To Grace’s pleasure, the Catamounts won their personal battle.
“I told them, ‘Give me everything you have, leave it all on the field, and if you give 100% today win, lose or draw, we did our job,’” he said. “I’m very happy with the effort and energy level with what we were working with.
“If you see us come out of the locker room with 11 guys, I think what’s going to happen when recruits come here and see how they fight the entire time, they’ll see how they can be a part of that.”
Though the pandemic might have stunted the Catamounts’ growth in the interim, Grace is still confident the program is on an upward trajectory.
The next step? Getting more locals aware that PSC lacrosse is an option.
“COVID set us back, it’s set everybody back,” he said. “Lacrosse here in West Virginia is not huge yet, we have slim pickings because a lot of those kids don’t know about lacrosse at this level, or they don’t think highly of themselves yet that they can make it.
“Getting more people in West Virginia to know about us it going to help us.”
Potomac State has an even tougher test against Harford, the nation’s No. 2 ranked team, at home on Saturday at 1 p.m.