WESTWOOD, Mass. – Xaverian lacrosse has had BC High’s number in recent years. The Hawks knocked the Eagles out of the state tournament a year ago and swept the regular season series this spring.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times in a season, especially a team you’re very familiar with. It’s hard not to become complacent. I wanted to make sure the guys were fired up for this playoff experience,” said Xaverian head coach Tim Gardner.
The Hawks left little doubt in the early going that they would not let their Catholic Conference rivals out of the stranglehold they’ve had on them.
Xaverian scored three times in the first 5:53 of the game en route to an 11-5 victory over BC High in the MIAA Division 1 South Quarterfinal on Sunday afternoon.
Senior midfielder D.J. Sperzel scored 1:52 into the game before attackers Danny Grant and Lukas Buckley would add tallies over the next several minutes to stake the home team out to the early 3-0 lead.
“It was great [to get the early lead],” Gardner said. “When you get a lead like that, you can settle down and trust your offense.”
After Xaverian’s Nick Shaw and BC High’s Pat Cronin exchanged goals to start the second quarter, it was Boston University commit Jack Wheeler who scored his first two of four goals on the afternoon to push the Hawks lead to 6-1 before the midway point of the second quarter.
“[Jack Wheeler] is a gamer, he’s going to make those plays,” Gardner said. “If you give him space to run, that’s where he excels.”
“Today they gave me a little more space than I anticipated they would. I’ve been struggling shooting lately so it definitely felt good to net a few today,” said Wheeler. “Once you net a few you just feel great.”
Will McCarthy tacked on a goal to give Xaverian a commanding 7-1 lead to take to the half.
Despite seeming completely out of the game, BC High showed its perseverance and no-quit attitude to start the second half.
A.J. Kucinski scored twice in the first two minutes of the third quarter to give the visitors some hope. Jack Berg drew BC High within three goals at the 4:36 mark.
“We’ve always showed resolve. We were a couple goals shy of making an even better run,” said BC High coach Tim Kelly.
But that was as close as BC High would get. Grant, who has filled in admirably for the injured Jake Cox, scored another important goal to quell the Eagles momentum.
“Danny Grant does a great job inside in the crease. He’s a great inside player. It was an adjustment we had to make when Jake Cox got hurt,” said Gardner.
“It’s definitely a different dynamic. Jake is more of a shooter; Danny is more of a strong crease player. I can usually find [Danny] open on the crease. He’s pretty crafty. I think people lose track of him,” said Wheeler.
Wheeler scored the next two goals, one to end the third quarter and then again 5:14 into the final frame.
The two teams would exchange goals in garbage time, including Buckley’s second of the afternoon for the Hawks, for the 11-5 final score.
“It’s always nice to beat BC High,” said Wheeler. “It’s especially nice to sweep them and beat them all three times. We just have their number.”
Hawks’ intangibles: The offense was tremendous and showed its skill throughout the game, but the defense, goaltending and face-off play were also instrumental in sending the Hawks on to the next round.
Shayne Kaminski was very dominant on faceoffs, allowing for the Hawks to take charge and control the possession battle for most of the contest.
“Shayne Kaminski did a great job with the faceoffs,” said Gardner.
The Hawks defense also stepped up their game, limiting BC High’s scoring opportunities and stepping into shooting lanes.
“I think we did an outstanding job defensively. They have two outstanding guys offensively. We focused all week on getting bodies on them and not letting them run or get their hands free. We wanted to get in their faces and not letting them shoot,” explained Gardner.
“It’s hard to beat Xaverian at all. They’re such a good team. Kaminski does such a good job on the face-offs and their defense was pretty awesome today,” said Kelly of his team’s opposition.
Often overlooked in a game with such a wide margin of victory, the goaltending of Mike Toomey was stellar. The sophomore made several key saves, including a few where he sacrificed his body.
“He had an outstanding game. He stopped a few close up shots that could have changed the momentum for them,” said Gardner, whose team will face Needham in the Division 1 South Semifinal.
Tough pill to swallow: It wasn’t easy for Kelly to find much solace in yet another loss to one of his team’s fiercest rivals, but the coach lamented on the ups and downs of the season.
“We had a fair season. We play a tough schedule. It made us better for the playoffs, but unfortunately you run into a tough team like Xaverian.”
Kelly said he’s proud of his group that always showed up for practice and for games no matter the situation.
“They never give up. Even if we lost a bad one they’d be back at practice the next day ready to go. They never gave up. The resolve has always been there, which shows something about these kids.”