The scores from Pascack Valley's first two games suggest complete performances, but head coach Craig Buckley wishes to argue otherwise.
"The first two games I don't think we played four quarters," he said. "We kind of started fast both times and then pulled up in the third and fourth quarters. We kind of stressed not to do that today."
If there was any "pulling up" by Pascack Valley after intermission this time, it was merely to trade one fine mode of transportation for an even better one. The Indians seized a six-goal lead in the first half and thoroughly dominated in the third quarter on their way to a 13-4 victory over River Dell Monday afternoon in Hillsdale.
Kevin Illian erupted with five goals and three assists, fellow junior attackman Nick Sunseri recorded four goals and two assists and senior Jeff Diorio paced a strong defensive effort to push the Indians to 3-0. Steven Luca, Evan Rowley, Jason Fleckenstein and Mike Neville each scored once for River Dell (2-2), and three of the goals came in the game's final 7:02.
"It was a great team effort today," Buckley said. "Defense, offense, clearing, transition, riding, all of it. A good team effort."
Not that the Indians' first two contests fall under the category of selfish, or careless, or disappointing. They beat Bergen Tech and Demarest by a combined score of 28-12, and did so with a healthy degree of scoring balance.
Of course, the first week of a season is made for harsh assessments by a head coach in order to keep the edges sharpened for tougher games along the way. Buckley may have preferred to criticize aspects of this game in preparation for Thursday's clash in Montvale against St. Joseph, but then credibility issues might have been raised.
"We played smart and unselfish in the first half," Buckley said, "and then kind of pulled away pretty easily from there."
Pascack Valley built a 7-1 lead in the opening half behind three goals and one assist by Sunseri, two goals from Nick Soravilla and a goal and two assists by Illian. The initial scoring was marked by transition and the later goals in the half by crisp ball movement in the settled sets.
"We definitely have some quick kids who can score in transition and we took advantage of that early," Illian said. "When (River Dell) changed to zone, we lulled them to sleep with our passes and then got quick moves from Buldo (Mike Buldo-Locciardi), me, really anybody, and then scored."
The Indians outshot River Dell, 25-8, in the opening half, a figure that was realized by a combination of ball control, the steady faceoff work of senior middie Mike Vicchio and the stingy defensive play of Diorio, Ryan Foley, Nick Choman and Erik Tracy. Senior goalie Kevin Switzer came up with seven saves for the game.
All that was impressive, but only a sample of what the Indians were girded to unleash in the third quarter.
There was, for starters, the excellent shooting of Illian, who buried three goals on just three shots to raise his club's lead to 10-1. He netted his fifth goal 1:26 into the fourth quarter for an 11-1 lead.
Pascack Valley unloaded 16 shots in that third period and held River Dell without a single attempt, and also forced 12 turnovers by way of a fierce ride and some ambitious play in the passing lanes by Diorio and his crew. The Indians gobbled up 16 ground balls in the third and left only four for River Dell.
"We just shut the ball down, pressured out, didn't give them anything too easy," Diorio said. "But when the offense keeps the ball on their side that much, it really makes our job easy."
Diorio's work will likely be much more challenging the next two days when his defense has to battle Illian and his boys in practice. They'll mix it up accordingly then, but yesterday the big defenseman had only praise for the offense.
"They're moving the ball really well," Diorio said. "They're really getting the feel for each other and for what each of them of do. We're getting some really good cuts through the zone and have good movement."
Illian has scored 12 goals in the first three games and Sunseri has 11. Senior Joe Farinelli banged in eight goals in the first two games, but scored just one Monday. Vicchio also contributed a goal while helping the Indians compile a 14-6 advantage in faceoffs.
"He's a senior and he works really hard," Illian said of Vicchio. "He comes up in the clutch and doesn't let the other team have the ball. He keeps the offense going."
Ben Sagerman finished with 16 saves for River Dell, including 10 in the second half as Pascack's shooters attacked relentlessly.
"Coach really talked about not letting up," Illian said. "This time we started quick, kept it on them and never let them come back."
Mike Kinney covers boys lacrosse for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS