The Oakville Rock took eight games to earn their first win of the season, but they didn't wait nearly as long to get their second. Just one night after beating KW 14-8 to break their 0-7 run to start the year, the Rock downed Brampton 10-7 behind a 4-goal, 2-assist performance from Kevin Ross to improve to 2-7. And just like that, in the tight Major Series Lacrosse standings, they're three points out of third place and looking much better in the race for playoff positions.
Oakville took advantage of a sluggish Brampton start to jump on the Excelsiors and lead 5-1 after 15 minutes. Brampton tried to fight back and got a pair in the final 1:12 of the first period to draw within a pair but were never able to get closer than that.
Ross had a big night, doubling his point total for the season in his third game, and the best play of them all was an around-the-world shot that he whipped into the far corner past Tyler Carlson as he was getting too deep along the side of the crease for a regular shot. “Yeah, that was the last resort desperation shot and I just kind of threw it and it went in,” Ross said. “It's nothing that I think I'd want to try to repeat too often but it was a fun game when things like that are working.”
Ross said the mood in the Oakville dressing room has brightened considerably over the last couple of days. “It's a lot better. We're not an 0-7 team even though we had that record. A couple of games we fell short against Kitchener, against Brooklin. The mood in the room was obviously disappointed that we've got the losses but knowing that we're right there. It's just a matter of time till we start putting a few wins together. We stayed confident, stayed calm, and now we're seeing results.”
Unfortunately for former head coach Phil Sanderson, the wins came a bit too late to save his job. Matt Sawyer replaced Sanderson after the seventh loss and is now 2-0 at the helm of the team. “We were 0-7 but I don't think that's a reflection of the coaching at all. Phil's a great coach, a heck of a motivator and a great lacrosse guy. Everyone in the room respects him,” Ross emphasized. “That said, Matty's come in and done a great job and is a great experienced guy as well. No, I don't think Phil is the reason we were 0-7 but when you have that record it tends to fall on somebody and a lot of cases it's the coach. Phil's not used to that situation. I'm sure it was a tough decision for Josh, but we're looking forward now and Matt's leading the ship.”
Brampton coach Paul Stewart pointed to the coaching change as a factor in Monday's game. “Teams that go through coaching changes can be dangerous. Phil Sanderson was a great coach and very well liked and respected and I suspect a lot of those guys feel like [expletive] that the poor start cost him his job, which can be motivating,” Stewart said. “On top of that, you bring in Matt Sawyer who has earned the reputation as a guy who is as good as anyone at watching film and pinpointing every single mistake in a game. Combine those two things with the return of some of their players and that is a team that you have to take seriously.”
Stewart ultimately placed most of the blame for the loss on his own team's failure to come ready to play, though. “We came out flat and go the result we deserved for doing so,” he said.