There may have been nothing on the line except pride but Tuesday night’s boys lacrosse contest at American Fork between the Cavemen and Timpview was a masterful conclusion to the summer exhibition season.
The Thunderbirds gave American Fork everything it could handle in an exciting back-and-forth battle that went to overtime before the Caveman emerged with the 8-7 victory.
“This was a great opportunity to play and fortunately things went in our favor,” Caveman head coach Tyson Poole said. “Timpview is a great program. It’s great to see Utah Valley lacrosse improve and play at a level where teams can compete for championships.”
After not having a lead for the first three quarters of action, Timpview rallied in the fourth period to take a two-goal lead at 7-5. It appeared that might be enough in the low-scoring battle.
“It was punch for punch today,” Thunderbird coach Casey Rich said. “It was a game in which our boys played hard and American Fork played out of their mind. It was a really fun game.”
But American Fork dug deep and responded with a couple of late goals, including a beautiful fast-break score that tied the game as time was winding down.
That forced a sudden-death overtime period that was even more nail-biting.
It appeared the Cavemen were on the verge of victory when they got a one-on-one deep in Timpview territory, but Thunderbird keeper Andrew Cook (who will be a freshman in the fall) stuffed the shot and kept the game going.
The Timpview offense then had its chances to snatch the victory but American Fork junior goalkeeper Fisher Card made one great save, then knocked another shot down right on the goal line and somehow kept it from going into the net.
“It was a roller-coaster ride and the American Fork boys took advantage of our lulls,” Rich said. “There always has to be a winner and loser but we had our chances. We were hungry for it but it didn’t fall for us.”
Instead it was American Fork that seized the next opportunity and made the most of it.
Caveman junior Austin Vitkauskas aggressively attacked from the right side and his shot made it through to the net, sparking a big celebration from the American Fork sideline.
“I’m not usually the guy to dodge but I felt it,” Vitkauskas said. “I was looking to pass but I saw the spot and shot it — and it went in.”
He said seeing the entire Cavemen team sprinting on the field to enjoy the victory was a great experience.
“It makes me feel loved, feel like these teammates really are my brothers like we always say,” Vitkauskas said. “It was great to get the win for the seniors and for everyone.”
Poole said it was rewarding to see his team be able to savor the dramatic victory.
“That moment showed their love for each other,” Poole said. “They fight for one another and got to celebrate. We tell them to celebrate the small victories. It was great to see that passion and see them come together.”
While Rich would’ve loved to see his team end up as the winner of the game, he said that playing was the most important thing.
“These games helped us build camaraderie,” Rich said. “We were grateful for the opportunity and grateful to the state that allowed these games to happen. Lacrosse is a sport that is adaptable and we’ve shown it. It also gave our players a chance to see how fun it is to be part of a team. We want them to experience that.”
Vitkauskas said the summer exhibitions gave him a chance to step forward.
“Not everyone could come, so I learned that you have to step up and do something,” Vitkauskas said. “When the chance comes, you have to show up. I really learned that during these summer matches.”