D2 Central lax: Grafton 7, Shrewsbury 3

WORCESTER, Mass. -- The Grafton Indians overcame an uncharacteristically poor first half offensively with a third quarter explosion to eliminate Shrewsbury with a 7-3 victory in Tuesday’s Division 2 Central semifinal game at Foley Stadium.

Grafton (19-3) came into the game averaging a Central Mass-best 12.2 goals per page, but scored just one goal in the first half against the top-ranked Shrewsbury (17-6) defense. The normally crisp Indians fumbled away routine passes and created few open looks. When there were opportunities, Shrewsbury goalie Chris Gorman was there to steal them away.

Despite all that, Grafton’s defense held things together, limiting Shrewsbury to a pair of goals from sophomore Joe Buduo and going to the half down 2-1.

“On the defensive end, that goalie in net [Gorman], he’s crazy,” Grafton coach Alan Rotatori said. “He made some saves today he has no business making. But he’s a great goalie. He’s one of the best goalies in the state, in my opinion… But what really happened (in the first half) is we were just running around. We weren’t setting up into any kind of formation that was familiar, so we started dodging from positions that weren’t familiar, and that’s not good for us.”

The third quarter was a completely different story, as Grafton scored four unanswered goals to reclaim control of the game. Senior Sawyer Coleman and freshman Chase Kapuscienski have grown accustomed to taking a back seat to Grafton’s senior All-American duo of Bryan Rotatori and Tyler Reilly, but when Shrewsbury clamped down on those two, the lesser known Indian middies stepped up.

First, Kapuscienski intercepted a Gorman pass on the attempted clear to find Coleman for a goal. Moments later, another Shrewsbury turnover turned into points for Grafton, as Coleman found Kapuscienski in transition, giving the Indians their first lead at 3-2. Kapuscienski would complete the 4-0 third-quarter run for the Indians when he threw in a pass from Rotatori with a minute to play in the period.

“There’s only so much you can say,” Rotatori said of addressing his team at halftime. “I try to limit my talking, because I’m not sure everybody’s listening all the time anyways. But, they do listen to each other… I just told them we were trying to go through just three guys. We’re a lot deeper than that, and we need to spread the ball around.”

Shrewsbury senior Derrick Dell’Olio would return the favor to Grafton, intercepting an Indian clearing pass and scoring, but a wrap around goal from Grafton senior Mike Schena and a nifty underhand score from Rotatori put the game out of reach. While pleased with the win, coach Rotatori knows things will be tougher when the Indians face top-seeded St. John’s in Saturday’s Central Mass final, and he will look for more from his stars after a day that saw Reilly score no points and Rotatori start slowly.

“Team’s usually focus on them, and they usually do a better job handling it,” Rotatori said. “Maybe it was just the pressure of this game, but they didn’t do well with it (Tuesday).”

Saturday’s Central Mass title game is set to start at 3 p.m. at Foley Stadium.