WESTFORD, Mass. – There might not be any stopping Lincoln-Sudbury’s boys’ lacrosse team now.
Sophomore Eric Holden notched six goals and added four assists to catapult the Warriors past Westford Academy, 18-11, in a MIAA Division 1 North Semifinal on Wednesday afternoon.
“I thought the kids played great,” stated Lincoln-Sudbury coach Brian Vona. “The kids came ready to play today.”
The defense, led by Notre Dame-bound senior John Sexton, has always been considered a strength for the Warriors, but the offense is now clicking at an astronomical level.
“It took us a while to get going, but I think everyone is stepping up at the right time. Everyone is coming together at the right time,” said Holden.
After a Ryan Hesseltine goal evened the score at 6-6 early in the second quarter, Lincoln-Sudbury took control of the game with five consecutive goals to end the first half with an 11-6 advantage.
Holden and senior Greg Roder had two goals each in that stretch while defenseman Eamon Hunter capitalized on a great effort stepping up from the backend after a nice interception to create a turnover.
The ambush continued into the second half as junior attack Nick Brindisi scored three goals to pace the LS offense in the third quarter for the 17-10 lead after 36 minutes. Holden, Roder and Mike O’Connell also scored third-quarter goals for the Warriors.
The teams each added a goal in the final frame that added up to nothing more than garbage time in an anti-climactic ending.
In addition to Holden’s 10 points, Roder’s four goals and Brindisi’s three goals and two assists were also top markers for the Warriors.
Hesseltine led the way offensively for Westford Academy with four goals and three assists while Ryan McNabb and Scott McCord each added two goals for the Grey Ghosts.
Sexton stonewalls WA: It’s not much of a secret how good John Sexton is on the lacrosse field, but he showed once again how much of an impact he could have on a game.
“He’s superman, I think he’s the best player I’ve ever coached,” said Vona.
Vona elected to let him go one-on-one with Jay Drapeau and Sexton didn’t disappoint. He stymied Drapeau, keeping Westford’s senior from finding the back of the net.
“I love going up to play him,” Sexton said of Drapeau. “He’s an aggressive player. He’s going to dodge. You know he’s going to try to take you to the rack. It’s fun every single time because he definitely does a lot of hard work in there and does a lot of things for his team.”
Sexton emphasized his defense came into the game with confidence and tried not to worry too much about the individual matchups.
“We were not so worried about the matchups. We were more worried about playing as a team. We knew if we limited their off-ball looks, we trusted our guys to make plays out there, get stops and get it going our way.”
Playing as a team and having trust in one another comes easy when the group gets along as well as this one, according to Sexton.
“We were confident on defense,” Sexton said. I’ve played with a lot of great defenses here, but this is definitely one of the tightest. I really trust those guys and [goaltender] Jack [McCready] in net.”
“Our defense is playing great. I thought our defense played really well tonight,” said Vona of his backline.
Hunter, Matt Barker and Will Darley also had strong games in addition to Sexton’s dominating performance.
“They have some of the best poles in the state. They are very talented,” commented Tholander. “It’s not as much John as it is the other guys around him. [Barker] and [Darley] are unbelievable defensemen.
Perhaps just as important is Sexton’s leadership qualities that have been key in putting the Warriors one game away from a second straight trip to the state championship game.
“I’ve said this a million times: He’s a better kid than he is a lacrosse player. He just wills us. He plays hard for his teammates everyday,” explained Vona.
McCready warms up: Goaltender Jack McCready got off to a slow start, but his game got hotter as the game went along.
“We let up some weak goals from the outside today which we have to clean up. I think Jack wanted at least two or three of those back, but we knew Jack would settle down. He made some big saves at the end of the game,” Vona said.
“I thought their goalie really kept them in the game. We had some good shots and [McCready] made some good saves,” said Tholander.
Ball movement keys L-S offense: The Warriors have put 49 balls into the back of the net since the start of the tournament. Holden has 20 points in the past two playoff games.
Those are alarming statistics for either of Lincoln-Sudbury’s potential opponents in the North Final next week.
“We shot really well. Most of our goals were assisted which is great,” said Vona.
The reason behind the offensive explosion can easily be traced back to the chemistry the attacks have with one another at the moment. The ball movement has been impressive with sharp passes being made with relative ease.
Holden credits his team’s ability to transition and push the ball up field with good pace as major factors for his team’s increase in offensive production.
“It all starts clearing the ball. We’ve been doing a good job getting the ball down field quickly. When we do that we’re able to push transition and get quick goals,” said Holden.
Lincoln-Sudbury’s powerful offense will get almost a week to prepare for the winner of Saturday’s game between between Andover and Acton-Boxborough.
The North sectional final will be at Harvard next Tuesday.