ESSEX — Anne Arundel Community College men's lacrosse coach C.A. "Buddy" Beardmore wasn't the least bit upset after watching his Pioneers lose, 15-13, to playoff-bound Essex Community College.
Nor was he upset at the fact that, by losing, his team had put its postseason fate in the hands of a selection committee.
Instead, Beardmore was upbeat yet reserved as he fielded questions about his squad that led at the half but not when it counted most. He praised his players for their efforts from start to finish and spoke highly of Essex, which clinched the NJCAA Region XX championship with the victory.
In between questions he nibbled on a candy bar, reinforcing his stand that it's just a game.
"It was the best game we played all year," said Beardmore, whose Pioneers were humbled by Essex, 13-8, on April 3. "I'm extremely proud of the way the guys hungin there from start to finish. They took the best team right down tothe wire, and they have nothing to be ashamed of."
The Pioneers (9-4 overall, 3-2 conference) showed little respect for the Knights inthe game's opening minutes as they tallied two goals to take an early lead.
Annapolis graduate Michael Green took advantage of an AnneArundel man-up opportunity when he found the net, unassisted, from the top of the box.
Freshman midfielder Ryan Murphy followed with agoal at the 10:43 mark on a feed from sophomore Travis Katski.
Essex returned the favor with two goals before Brett Willman scored to put the Pioneers ahead, 3-2.
The two squads exchanged goals in thewaning minutes of the first quarter, but it was the visitors who held a 5-4 advantage heading into the second stanza.
Scoring Anne Arundel's other two first-period goals were Gary Williams (Annapolis) and Nick DiMauro (South River).
The Knights showed signs of why theywere the Region XX champions in the second quarter, as they scored two goals to claim the lead for the first time. Derik Allender's unassisted goal put the hosts out front, 6-5, with 9:32 left in the half.
Anne Arundel used the remaining time wisely, as it netted two moregoals, giving it a 7-6 lead at halftime. Sophomores Michael Pearce and Todd Reynolds provided the scoring for the Pioneers, with Pearce'scoming on a feed from Williams.
The Pioneers came up empty in therain-laden third quarter, but more costly were the three goals they yielded to the Knights.
Trailing, 9-7, Anne Arundel came out of the gates with a vengeance in the fourth quarter. The Pioneers needed only 15 seconds to pull within one, as sophomore Jason Howard stormed the net and scored on a pass from Katski.
Essex struck back immediately with two goals that returned the margin to three, 11-8.
Williams and Jason Fairmon scored on feeds from Fairmon and Green to pullthe Pioneers back to within one with a little over 11 minutes to go.
Essex then delivered what proved to be the fatal blow, as it netted three consecutive goals to take a 14-10 lead.
The persistent Pioneers managed to net three more goals in the contest's waning moments but it was too little, too late.
"They just plain outran us to the net a couple of times," said Beardmore. "We thought we could slow them down but we couldn't. We never could freeze them."