WESTWOOD, Mass. -- Those expecting a tight game between two of the best Catholic school lacrosse programs in the state left the Hawk Bowl shocked Thursday night, as St. John's (Shrewsbury) blasted Xaverian, 12-3.
It was a dominant all-around performance by the Pioneers, as senior goalie Steve Kerr registered 13 saves. Meanwhile, junior attack Jared Ward tallied five goals, plus a pair of assists, and All-American Drew Smiley dished out four assists to go with a goal of his own.
"I thought we came out and played all phases of the game today," St. John's coach Terry Leary said. "That's as good as we've played in the last couple years."
Sophomore middie Andrew Cox got things started for St. John's (11-0) in the first, ripping in a shot off a pass from Smiley to give the Pioneers a 1-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter, Smiley would again create offense with his passing, this time finding senior middie Kevin Butler with a nice feed to extend the lead.
Then Ward took over. Most around the state don't know Ward. After all, he only played JV for St. John's last year, but Xaverian (7-3) won't soon be forgetting the explosive attackman.
In a span of two-and-a-half minutes, Ward threw home a feed from Smiley, wrapped around the cage for a jumping goal, then dodged in for another. His second quarter hat trick pushed the Pioneer lead to 6-0, then senior Nick Gabriele and Cox added a quick scores to make it a surprising 8-0.
By the time D.J. Sperzel stopped the bleeding for Xaverian with less than two to play in the half, it was too late.
"A couple times they got the ball [off the face-off], and were able to cause a turnover before they really got possession," Leary said. "Then once we had it, they were aggressive on our guys, and Jared Ward and the rest of our attackmen were getting a step every time they came out on them."
Jake Cox actually gave Xaverian the first goal of the second half, but St. John's quickly regained control of the game. Smiley found Butler again for a score, then added one himself from Ward less than a minute later.
Ward scored another dodging goal to close out the third and send the game to its final frame with St. John's leading 11-2.
Sperzel scored again in the fourth for the Hawks, but as he had done all game, Ward found room to work on the Xaverian side of the field, dodging in for his final goal to make it a 12-3 final.
"The practice intensity this week was outstanding," senior defenseman Will Roberts said. "We looked great in practice, and I think it starts there. (This week) it translated really well to the games."
It may seem like St. John's just had a big week, as the Pioneers established their dominance in Central Mass with a win over Shrewsbury, then notched big wins over St. John's Prep and Xaverian.
But things will get no easier for the Pioneers, who welcome Western Mass. power MInnechaug to Shrewsbury Monday, then travel to Groton-Dunstable Tuesday, before taking the long ride to Longmeadow next Friday.
The Lancers are the Pioneers' biggest competition in the newly realigned Division 2 Central/West, and St. John's will need to pick up a few more big wins before they can start thinking about a perfect campaign.
"We don't like to think about (going undefeated) or look ahead too much," Roberts said. "We've got Longmeadow next week, and we know that's gonna’ be a great game -- Minnechaug and South Hadley, too."