BILLERICA, Mass. -- Brian Vona has been around long enough to know that if his Lincoln-Sudbury lacrosse squad is going to make a deep run in this year's postseason, the Warriors defense is going to come up with big stops in key spots.
Led by sophomore Notre Dame commit John Sexton, the D did just that in the third quarter of last night's nonleague clash with fellow Div. 1 power Billerica. Goals by Peter Walters and Dan Trainor to open the third quarter helped pull the Indians to within two goals of the Warriors at 9-7. With Kevin Farrell dominating the faceoff X, it seemed as though Billerica was in the midst of what could have been a game-changing run.
The Lincoln-Sudbury (13-5) defense dug in its heels, worked hard to get ground balls and excelled in the clearing game after each of Dan Shaughnessy's 16 saves, and returned both momentum and confidence to the Warriors sideline. L-S then proceeded to score seven of the next eight goals and pulled away for a convincing 17-9 triumph.
"It was 9-7 where we were worried," Vona admitted. "They fought back hard and we knew they were going to make a run. They are very well-coached and very skilled. [Cam] Slatton, [Ben Melaugh], [Russ Tedford] and [Walters] - those are there four players who can bring it. We knew they were going to come back and they did. Our defense had to make a couple stops. We've been looking for that for a while from our defense."
He added, "Our defense really played well in the third quarter. That's when I feel like that we set the tone was set for the entire game.
Jordan Dow led the Warriors with five goals, while Colby Hall added three goals and three assists and Henry Guild chipped in with a hat trick. Slatton had three goals and two helpers to lead Billerica, with Walters and Trainor each adding a pair.
Vona also noted that, prior to the game, the Warriors dedicated their performance to program founder and now-retired former coach Andy Oleski.
FILLING IN THE MIDDLE
The wide-open style that Lincoln-Sudbury plays makes them a very fun to watch and has for years. The offensive players, both attack and middies, know how to fill lanes and zip passes back and forth until they find the right shooting opportunity. Such plays led to a 5-2 first quarter and a 6-1 fourth.
The key for the Warriors is maintaining in the middle portions of the game. While L-S outscored the Indians in all four frames, Billerica played its best during the middle quarters. One the defense got going, however, that gave the offense the spark it needed for a definitive closing stretch.
"We just need all the middle too," Vona said with a laugh. "We've been playing well the last few games. We went down to the Connecticut and played a real tough team down there, got off to a fast start and lulled in the middle as well but we came back at the end. I'm proud of the kids."
DIGGING A HOLE TOO DEEP
Although Billerica managed to close to within a pair of goals during that third quarter, having to play from behind all game created problems that, against a team of the caliber of L-S, are just too much to overcome.
The Indians found themselves trailing by as many as four goals at several points, and once the Warriors made a strong push at the end, Billerica simply couldn't hold on any longer. An early harbinger of things to come took place in the opening minutes when a clearing pass was sent back to the Indians cage only to find no goalie waiting to receive it and the ball rolled right in for the first L-S score.
Games like this in the final week of the regular serve as strong teaching tools, something Indians coach Craig Flynn undoubtedly will address with his charges before the tournament begins.
"We started off in the hole, gave them a couple of goals early that we shouldn't have, passing back to the goalie when he's not in the net trying to clear the ball," Flynn explained. "We felt like we could keep fighting back but their offense is very good. They have good attackmen and midfielders and our defense was getting lost in there. We had a lot of mental errors. They have a lot of motion in their offense and it looked like our guys were getting lost out there on defense."
"It's all learning experiences for our guys to get ready for the tournament," he continued. "We'll learn a lot from this and I think we can make a solid run at this thing once we get into it."