Rock reflect on season that came up short

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:38 PM ET

A night’s sleep did not do much to make the Toronto Rock — particularly headcoach Troy Cordingley — feel any better about coming up a game short.

The Rock fell to the Washington Stealth 15-11 in the National Lacrosse League’s title match late Saturday night on the West Coast, thanks in large part to a letdown that saw the Stealth connect for eight straight goals.

Leading 10-6 late in the third quarter, the fatigue of a long season and a 10-hour trip to Everett, Wash., just outside of Seattle, finally appeared to catch up to the Rock.

The team stopped pressing on offence and stopped piling on its trademark pressure on defence.

Washington cut the lead to three, then disaster struck. With about 15 seconds to go in the quarter, Cordingley pulled goalie Bob Watson for an extra attacker to give the Rock a chance to seize back control.

But Washington stole a loose ball following an errant Toronto shot. The Stealth’s Eric Martin took a shot from the his own end of the floor, then somehow managed to get to the rebound before a Rock defender and deposited it into the open net.

Cordingley said he had no regrets about pulling Watson and would make the same move “one thousand times out of a thousand,” but admitted that the breakdown was his fault.

“It was an error on my part not to communicate proper instructions (about what to do if the Stealth recovered the ball) at the right time,” he said over the phone from the airport in Seattle.

The Stealth blitzed the Rock 7-1 in the final quarter to wrap up the win. Toronto had come back from a 3-0 deficit and Washington later recovered from a five-in-a-row stretch by the Rock.

“Lacrosse is a game of momentum,” Cordingley said. “To play three solid quarters and lose it in the fourth ... that whole game is momentum.”

Cordingley, who guided the Calgary Roughnecks to the NLL crown last season, said there wasn’t much he could say in the locker room after the devastating setback.

“There’s nothing I can explain that will make them feel better, but I told them I was proud of them,” he said.

“We are very pleased to do what we did together, but we’re awfully disappointed that we didn’t finish the job.”

Still, the franchise should not have any regrets about its 2010 campaign.

After winning five championships in seven years starting in 1999, the Rock was eliminated in the first round twice before missing the postseason entirely following dreadful 2008 and 2009 seasons.

An off-season of upheaval took place last summer and the plan was to lift the franchise back to the top slowly. Oakville businessman Jamie Dawick bought the team last June and brought back general manager Terry Sanderson, who led the club to the 2005 title.

Cordingley followed, superstar Colin Doyle was reacquired and standout rookies Stephan Leblanc and Garrett Billings were drafted.

But nobody expected the rebuild to happen overnight which is why just making it back to the Champion’s Cup was a solid accomplishment.

“Hopefully we took a step to make believers of our fans again,” Cordingley said.

There isn’t much doubt they did that.


Videos

Photos