Boston High School: Brian Vona

D1 North final: Acton-Boxborough 8, L-S 7

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11

ALLSTON, Mass. -- With their season series tied at one, last night's Division 1 North final between Dual County League rivals Acton-Boxborough and Lincoln-Sudbury seemed primed to end yesterday's tripleheader at Harvard with a flourish.

It didn't disappoint.

The Warriors and Colonials tore the house down at Harvard Stadium for 48 minutes, and at the final horn it was A-B surviving with an 8-7 win and a trip to Saturday's state final.

“Always playing L-S is a rivalry,” Acton-Boxboro midfielder Chris Wiggins said. “Last year we lost all three games, but this year we're 2-1. It's a big step up. I think it was just the heart. We never really wanted it bad last year. This year this is the only thing we wanted; we wanted to beat L-S.”

With the game tied at five after three quarters both sides played a final 12 minutes that will not soon be forgotten by any in attendance.

A-B's Hunter Arnold and Wiggins scored goals 19 seconds apart before the Warriors responded with goals by Greg Roder and Connor McCarthy.

With all of the Colonials’ vaunted weapons it was an unlikely hero who scored the winning goal. Sophomore Peter Hatch put home a goal with just over three minutes left, and the Colonials defense held the rest of the way. Hatch was one of six different goal scorers for the Colonials.

Joe Cormier, who had a hat trick for the Colonials, said the depth provides an added confidence for the squad.

“It's so relieving,” Cormier said. “You don't second guess yourself. It makes the game that much faster, it makes the defense move that much more, and inevitably more goals.”

L-S hurt its own cause with seven penalties in the game, and the Colonials made them pay. A-B scored three times in man-up situations.

“We've been working on it quite a bit so we've been better as of late,” A-B coach Pat Ammendolia said of his team's man up. “It's not anything I’m giving them it's just them making plays. I don't a heck of a lot of coaching. I just put them in the right spots and let them make plays.”

L-S had its chances to finish but failed to do so. Two chances right on the crease in the waning minutes failed to find twine.

“I think they had better intensity throughout the game,” L-S coach Brian Vona said. “We had a lot of intensity too, but I don't think we matched their intensity throughout the game. I think we had it in spurts. I really just think they executed.”

The Warriors were led offensively by a pair of goals from Eric Holden and a one-goal, one-assist game from Harlan Smart.

SEXTON GOES DOWN: It is safe to say that John Sexton was Lincoln-Sudbury's anchor. The senior long-stick midfielder was a star on defense, controlled the faceoff X, and had the green light to shoot. However, the Warriors had to play over half the game without him as Sexton went down with a leg injury in the second quarter.

“Sexton left a legacy here of kids that want to work hard,” Vona said. “That kid willed us the last couple of years. He's a great player on the field, but off the field he's really special.

“One of the kids said it best, John led us all year to this moment. He made all the kids game ready in case he went down, and the kids played hard.”6

For Ammendolia, who coached against Sexton for four years, winning the title without the Under Armour All-American on the field took a little sheen off the festivities.

“You hate to see Johnny Sexton go down, he's a heck of a player,” Ammendolia said. “It's too bad we had to win without him on the field.”

Recap: No. 9 Xaverian 7, No. 8 Lincoln-Sudbury 6

May, 17, 2014
May 17

SUDBURY, Mass. – On a beautiful afternoon for lacrosse, it was Xaverian that shined brightest once again.

In a rematch of last year’s state final won by Xaverian, the Hawks claimed another victory over Lincoln-Sudbury in a game dedicated to raising awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project.

“It feels great beating L-S again, a lot of people still doubted us to beat them,” said senior midfielder D.J. Sperzel of his team’s 7-6 triumph. “It feels good to prove them wrong.”

Trailing 6-4 entering the fourth quarter, the Hawks’ senior class stepped up, scoring three times in the first 4:51 of the quarter, capped off by Sperzel’s tally.

“[L-S] thought I was a lefty the whole game, but I’m a righty. I went left and got a good shot off. It went right by his hip,” said Sperzel of his game-winning goal.

Jack Wheeler scored just 35 seconds into the final quarter for his second tally of the game, and Will Mackey evened the score on the man advantage at the 4:03 mark.

“[L-S] was doing a great job taking away our athletes,” said Haws head coach Tim Gardner, whose team also received scoring from Sean Sperzel and Pete Thorbahn. “We just had to do the best we could to find the best matchups and go with it. It was great to finally crack them.”

“We changed up our offense. We went with two men up top. We spread it out from there and tried to pick on the short sticks,” explained Sperzel of his team’s heightened success in the fourth quarter.

Sperzel’s game-winner might not have been possible if it hadn’t been for the earlier heroics of sophomore goaltender Mike Toomey, who came up with several monumental saves on the games.

“He was awesome, he stood on his head all game,” said Sperzel.

Warriors head coach Brian Vona echoed the sentiment, saying, “Hats off to their goalie. He made three or four stellar saves in big moments. He played great. I thought he was the difference in the game.”

Toomey was able to get his body on some of the saves and flash the stick on others, but he and his coach credited his ability to see what was coming as a major reason for his success.

“Today I was just seeing the ball well,” Toomey said. “That’s what you need to make the saves.”

Toomey Time: Toomey’s performance was particularly noteworthy for an underclassman in a game as intense as Saturday’s with all the extra meaning involved. However, it came as little surprise to his teammates and the coaching staff.

“Toomey is a sophomore who we really like,” Gardner said. “He has great enthusiasm and a great head for the game. He’s still learning and getting confidence, but he was ready for this game.”

“I try not to think about [the pressure] and just play my game,” said Toomey. “My defense really stepped up. They did fantastic. I’m just glad to have them in front of me,” he added.

Toomey’s progression as a young player could not be coming at a better time for a Hawks team that is hoping to make another deep run into the postseason.

“He’s progressively been getting better all year, but he’s tearing it up now. It’s perfect timing going into the playoffs,” said Sperzel.

Warriors fighting it: Lincoln-Sudbury played well, but for the second straight game (including Thursday’s overtime loss to Westford Academy), it wasn’t enough for the victory, according to Vona.

“We’re playing well enough to compete, but not well enough to win,” said the coach. “It’s as simple as that. We can compete with anyone. We’re not playing well enough in the big moments.”

Austin Barta and Eric Holden chipped in two goals each for the Warriors while Harlan Smart and Nick Brindisi added a goal each. LS had terrific ball movement throughout the game, but was unable to execute and finish in some key opportunities.

“Teams know our weaknesses," Vona said. "They’re playing it a certain way and playing it well. We just have to be more ready for that."

Recap: Bishop Guertin 9, No. 6 L-S 8

May, 4, 2014
May 4
NASHUA, N.H. – It was a battle fitting of two of the top teams in New England and in the end it was Bishop Guertin holding on to defeat Lincoln-Sudbury, 9-8, at Rivier University.

The Cardinals held the ball for the last four minutes to seal the win. Bishop Guertin rode its endless depth to the victory. Six different Cardinals scored, and Guertin coach Chris Cameron was liberal in his substitutions from start to finish.

Nick Prunier, Dom St. Laurent, and Charlie O'Brien each had two goals for Guertin.

“Nick Prunier, who came in off the bench, had two big ones right away,” Cameron said. “We run seven middies, two faceoff guys, three LSMs, we have five long poles who can play. We have a lot of depth down the line, and I think we needed that today.”

Lincoln-Sudbury came out of the gate rolling, jumping to a 5-1 lead early in the second quarter. Eric Holden had two of his three goals in the opening barrage. Greg Roder scored the first of his three during the run as well.

The Warriors were able to consistently move the ball in the opening period and put up more shots in that quarter (10) than in any other quarter. However, a slew of penalties allowed the Cardinals to get back in it.

“We didn't execute little things,” Lincoln-Sudbury coach Brian Vona said. “We didn't deserve to win. They're a very good team; they're best players executed some big moments and played big the whole game.”

The Cardinals flipped the script the last 11 minutes of the second quarter. Guertin utilized its substitution advantage and scored six goals to into halftime up 7-6.

St. Laurent, who scored both of Guertin's second half goals, said that once he and his team worked out the jitters they were able to get down to business.

“I think we came out a little bit timid, a little bit nervous,” St. Laurent said. “But once we pulled ourselves together the sky's the limit when we're playing our brand of lacrosse.”

The Guertin offense was aided by solid defense and even stronger goaltending. Jake Sonberg turned aside eight shots for the Cardinals including a pair in the fourth quarter that preserved the lead.

“It was definitely a new experience,” Sonberg said. “I honestly haven't been shot on by poles that well. The biggest thing for me was watching the ball the whole way and addressing the defense because they really stepped up today.”

Lincoln-Sudbury was able to reel in Guertin's attack in the second half and chip away at the lead. Roder scored a goal midway through the third and again in the fourth quarter to keep the Warriors within a goal.

“When Greg was dodging up top he was patient,” Holden said. “He didn't rush things or take too many bad shots. He waited for the third or fourth dodge; he waited for a good time to go and capitalized on his shots.”

A penalty with 1:41 left doomed Lincoln's attempts at tying the game as the Cardinals were able to salt away the win.

Guertin, who has beaten its five New Hampshire opponents 96-29, relished the challenge of playing another of the Commonwealth's best teams. The Cardinals beat Needham, 10-9, on April 22.

“I live for it,” Sonberg said. “It's no fun playing those 15-2, 18-2 games. I don't get anything out of that. This game experience is what really drives and is what I play for.”
SUDBURY, Mass. – Even as Lincoln-Sudbury lacrosse found a sliver of daylight in the third quarter of its Dual County League game against Concord-Carlisle, Warriors head coach Brian Vona had anxiety.

“We didn’t feel as though the game was over at that point,” Vona said of the two-goal lead L-S opened up in the third.

But the sixth-ranked Warriors would not relinquish that lead as they again threw the hammer down on defense. L-S hardly allowed the No. 15 Patriots past midfield in the second half, holding them to one goal in the final 24 minutes while cruising to a 9-5 win.

It was one of the state’s most robust defensive units finishing the job once again as the fearsome trio of Matt Barker, Eamon Hunter and John Sexton made scoring chances hard to come by for C-C, while senior goaltender Jack McCready made nine saves.

“Last year, it was our offense that we relied on; this year, it’s our defense,” Vona said. “I love the defense, they’re playing great. I love the intensity they play with. They’ve worked a lot together as a group, so they rely on each other. Jack [McCready] talks a lot directing the defense and that’s the most important thing.”

L-S (9-2) held a slim 5-4 advantage at the half, but watched the Patriots (4-6) draw even early in the third on Tommy Standish’s second goal of the game, assisted by Steven Armanetti (1 G, 2 A).

Eric Holden (2 G, 1 A) provided what stood up to be the game-winning goal with 3:37 remaining in the third before Austin Barta netted his third goal of the game with 1:43 to go. The Warriors added insurance goals in the fourth from Michael Yenke and Harlan Smart (1 G, 1 A).

Meanwhile, defensive midfielder Ryan Koenig stepped in to win some key faceoffs down the stretch, winning three of the game’s final four draws to salt the clock away.

“Concord plays tight-game lacrosse,” Vona said of his opponent, which happens to be coached by former high school teammate Tom Dalicandro. “They’re well-coached, the possess the ball. At that point in the game, we still had a lead, 7-5, but we still needed to win faceoffs.”

Shuffling the deck: While the Warriors’ defense appears in midseason form, they’ve yet to play with a full complement of players on the offensive half of the field.

L-S has lost Denver-bound attack Colby Hall during the season and has been without promising sophomore midfielder Connor McCarthy, who continue his rehab from offseason surgery.

The Warriors only recently saw one of their offensive stalwarts from seasons’ past return, with senior captain Greg Roder returning to the rotation.

“He settles us down,” Vona said of Roder – a four-year letter-winner. “He’s a guy that we know can move the ball and be in control. He’s a great athlete and he plays both ways. He got stuck on defense four times today, and he made great plays.”

Recap: No. 4 Lincoln-Sudbury 11, No. 5 A-B 6

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
ACTON, Mass. -- It started as a battle between two of the top teams in Massachusetts, but in the end it was a statement win for Lincoln-Sudbury.

The Warriors racked up eight second-half goals, and cruised past Dual County League rival Acton-Boxborough, 11-6, Thursday afternoon.

“I'm happy we won,” Lincoln-Sudbury head coach Brian Vona said. “[They’re a] very good team. We're going to play them again and probably again after that in the playoffs.”

A-B led 4-2 early in the third quarter before the Warriors’ motor hit sixth gear and took off.

Eric Holden scored all three of his goals in the second half. Greg Roder, in his first game back from injury, scored two of his three goals in the second half.

“It just felt good coming back,” Roder said. “We had a slow first half, but at halftime we had a reality check and it opened up on the offensive end.

“We got a lot of goals in transition; that's how we like to play. We want to make sure that when we bring it over that's when we want to attack. We don't want to play six-on-six offense. We want to go when there's less guys to slide; we like to dodge and shoot. That's what we ended up doing in the second half and I think that's what led to our success today.”

The Warriors attacked in bursts. L-S had four pairs of goals scored less than a minute apart.

The turning point in the game came late in the third quarter when Holden put on a successful ride deep in the Colonials’ end that forced a bad pass that turned into an own goal. The goal put L-S up, 7-5, and took the wind out of A-B's sails.

“An own goal there is tough to swallow,” A-B head coach Pat Ammendolia said. “It happens and you can't dwell on those types of mistakes. I think we tried to, but it just didn't quite work. I thought our effort was there throughout the game. They just outplayed us in the second half.

A-B forced the action early and brought physicality to the game. Hunter Arnold stepped up for the Colonials with a hat trick. Arnold's first two goals put the Colonials ahead going into halftime.

“Hunter's a great player,” Ammendolia said. “[He’s a] three-sport captain, and he's been with us for three years and he's gotten progressively better as an athlete every year we've had him.”

Long possessions and key ground ball wins kept L-S on the attack for long stretches. Faceoffs and ground balls were even, and each team was able to put shots on cage regularly. However it came down to sliding on the defensive end, the Warriors held A-B scoreless for a 13:57 stretch of the second half, and solid goaltending.

When the Colonials responded Jack McCready was there. McCready continued his stretch of solid play with an 11-save performance.

“Jack made a few good saves today,” Vona said. “He's been steady for us; he's been that way all year for us. I thought he played great.”

Recap: Lincoln-Sudbury 5, Wellesley 3

April, 4, 2014
Apr 4
SUDBURY, Mass. – In recent memory, both Lincoln-Sudbury and Wellesley lacrosse have been staples in making deep runs in their respective divisions.

However, as Wellesley steps up to Division 1 from the D2 ranks this season, the Raiders got a sample of what they’ll encounter if they want to make another postseason drive in Thursday’s matchup with the Warriors.

Although Wellesley tried its best to draw even with a third-quarter comeback, L-S held on for a 5-3 win.

The defending Division 1 state finalists never trailed in the contest and ran out to a 2-0 lead at the end of the first on goals by Austin Barta and Chris Brindisi. Mike O’Connell added a third goal before the Raiders’ Tucker Dietrick broke up the shutout with less than three minutes to play in the half.

Wellesley (1-1) made its run in the third, winning the ground ball battle in the frame, 6-2. After Nick Brindisi’s goal gave L-S (2-0) its largest lead of the day at 4-1, the Raiders drew within a goal again on tallies from John Caraviello and Kerry Lyne.

Yet, the Warriors responded with a nice cutting goal from Colby Hall with Eric Holden hitting the University of Denver commit midstride on the feed.

Despite a couple of hit posts from both sides, the fourth quarter closed

“I think L-S is a little more toward mid-season and we’re a little more toward preseason,” Wellesley head coach Rocky Batty said. “I think there was a bunch to learn from today.”

X-factor: Wellesley’s third-quarter run came via a recommitment to winning ground balls in the midfield, accompanied by a slight variation in offensive attack.

“One of the places we had trouble with ground balls was at the faceoff X,” Batty said. “Tucker [Dietrick] did a good job of winning the draws, but John Sexton was just so tough in saying, ‘I lost the draw, but I’m going to win the ball.’

Both of the Raiders’ third-quarter goals came off of defensive ground ball wins. Then, in the offensive half of the field, they were able to get clean looks at the cage.

“We won the ground balls and we changed our strategy to go after their poles,” Batty said. “We just went for three, four straight possessions and we had some success.”

Closing stride: With several of its offensive mainstays out due to injury and facing a Wellesley side which was coming off an impressive 18-goal performance against Billerica, L-S looked to its defensive stalwarts to shut down a potent Raiders’ attack.

Enter Notre Dame-bound long-stick midfielder John Sexton.

“He played great,” Warriors head coach Brian Vona said of Sexton, “and he played against a great player in [attack Matt] Dziama – he’s the real deal.”

While Sexton turned in a multifaceted performance, slowing down one of Wellesley’s chief offensive threats and stepping in on face-off duty, it was put upon Matt Barker in close defense to mitigate the impact of Caraviello, who put in seven goals against Billerica previously. In a matchup of future Trinity College teammates, Barker disrupted the flow of the Raiders’ offense throughout, particularly in the fourth quarter, with the Warriors buckling down to close out the victory.

D1 lax final: Xaverian 9, Lincoln-Sudbury 5

June, 13, 2013

ALLSTON, Mass. – Xaverian made history on Wednesday night at Harvard Stadium. The Hawks claimed the lacrosse program’s first-ever Division 1 state title with a solid 9-5 victory over the top seed Lincoln-Sudbury.

Xaverian jumped out to a 4-0 lead early in the second quarter and controlled the majority of play to bring home the championship. Following the final whistle, head coach Tim Gardner reflected on what it meant to finally earn the elusive first trophy.

“It’s your primary goal every preseason…you work for this day and hope that it can happen and we’ve gotten close a few times and to win this game against that team…to win it in this fashion is pretty incredible,” he reflected.

Junior attack jack Wheeler was the star of the game offensively with four goals and he could only marvel at the accomplishments that the Hawks reached this year.

“It makes us feel great. We came out Catholic Conference champs and no. 7 coming into the playoff and knocked off no. 2 Needham and then L-S right now,” he remarked.

When asked if he was surprised about the Hawks quick start to the game, Wheeler replied, “I actually had a dream last night that we were going to come out and it was going to be 2-0 and then we’d go on to win.”

It took more than eight minutes for the opening goal and junior midfielder D.J. Sperzel opened the scoring for Xaverian. Wheeler followed almost two minutes later with his first and it was 2-0 Hawks after the opening quarter. The slow start continued for L-S, as Wheeler and semi-final round hero Lukas Buckley added a pair to make it 4-0 before the Warriors got on the board.

Head coach Brian Vona admitted after the game that his team just could not match the speed of the Hawks out of the gate.

“I think they outplayed us and they played with a different speed,” he explained. “ I didn’t see any of my guys run by someone or even try. I saw guys that we covered a month ago run by our guys.”

Vona added, “Our kids played with heart…but I felt like we got outplayed. It’s just that simple.”

L-S got back into the game in the second quarter. First, senior Dan Delaney struck to make it 4-1 and then senior attacker Jordan Dow made it a two-goal game. Sperzel and John Merwin traded goals and the score was 5-3 heading into halftime.

The top seed made it a one-goal game just 1:37 into the third quarter on Merwin’s second of the night, but Xaverian answered the challenge. It was Wheeler who struck back with a great move and rocket of a shot to make it 6-4. Gardner was proud of his best players coming through on the biggest stage.

“This is a great day for stars to step up, you know, and Jack [Wheeler] really earned it today with big goals at big times,” he said.

Wheeler pointed to the Hawks attacking with speed as one of the reasons behind Xaverian’s strong offensive performance.

“When we pushed it, we scored almost every time,” he said. “Most of our shots were on net, which was helping us out. We kind of just pushed it and it worked out for us and we kept pushing it.”

Following Wheeler’s third, Eric Hoffman notched his first to make it 7-4 and give Xaverian a much needed cushion. Chris Giorgio gave the Warriors hope with a score 2:21 before the end of the third quarter, but it would be the last goal from L-S in the game.

The Hawks defense has been strong all postseason against some of the top attacking talents in the state (including Nico Panepinto of Needham and Jay Drapeau of Westford Academy) and it was stout once again in the final.

“We tried not to let them pass around and pass around and possess and not give them any space when they drive,” Gardner said. “We were just preaching team defense, get a body on body, don’t let them see the back side of the field and just try to prevent easy goals.”

Vona was also full of praise for the strength of the Xaverian defenders, which had a much bigger impact than in the team’s regular season meeting (L-S won that game 10-5).

He noted, “I don’t feel like we ever got into a rhythm and I feel like that’s because of them. I think they played that well. I don’t know how many times we turned the ball over, but that wasn’t just us turning the ball over – they helped us turn the ball over.”

In addition to the Hawks’ long poles Rob Breed, Joe Gaziano and Elijah Jolly, who all had solid performances, Xaverian could count on goalie Jay Pourbaix to make the key stops. The biggest sequence came with the score at 6-4 and Pourbaix made two close-range saves to preserve the two-goal advantage.

Gardner made sure to highlight the contributions of his goalie, especially the way he battled through injury in the final.

“Jay [Pourbaix] has been playing hurt all week,” said Gardner. “He was banged up coming out of the B.C. High game. His knee is hurting and every step of his hurt, but he stepped up and it was just an incredible performance.”

In the fourth quarter, Wheeler capped his great night with a great goal to make it 8-5. He gave a pump-fake that forced two defenders to charge at him, stepped inside the defense and fired an unstoppable shot past the goalie. With 3:10 left in the game, Backus added his second to wrap things up and secure the title.

“It’s really remarkable and all the credit to the guys for their hard work and not giving up, not backing down when they started coming back a little bit and, really, at points in the season when it looked like we could have gone downhill…we really made a decision to step up and improve every day.”

MIAA boys' lacrosse championship picks

June, 11, 2013

Dover Sherborn (18-4) vs. Cohasset (17-3)

Players to watch: D-S – D Rogers Boylan, A Matt Davies, G Ryan Goodall, M Matt Huemme, A Brandon Jaeger; Cohasset – G Jack Conte, LSM Tim Gillis, M Will Golden, A John Mills, M Colin Whelan.

Breakdown: The Raiders eye their second straight Division 3 title, but face a Skippers team that has won nine straight games dating back to a May 9 regular-season loss to D2 finalist Hingham. D-S feeds off of their goaltender, Goodall, who is equally adept making tough stops as he is springing the transition game with his long-strike passing ability. The Skippers are guided to Harvard by first-year head coach James Beaudoin, who hopes to lead the program to its first championship since 2010.

X-factor: For the skippers to win, they’ll need Golden to bring his A-game to the faceoff X and control play. He’s capable.

Pick: D-S 11, Cohasset 7.


Longmeadow (23-0) vs. St. John’s of Shrewsbury (18-3)

Players to watch: Longmeadow – A Kevin Barry, M Eric Barsalou, G Matt Draymore, M Keegan Dudeck, A Zack Lukus; SJS – G Andrew Arnold, A Hunter Burdick, A Josh Freilich, FOGO Connor Maloney, A/M Andrew Smiley.

Breakdown: The two district champions met once during the regular season, with the Lancers invading Shrewsbury and keeping their perfect season in tact with a 10-8 victory. Both of these teams have their share of offensive firepower, but they can also stop it, highlighted by Pioneers pole Aidan Fox. As their prior meeting, this game will likely be decided by the midfielders and which team is able to win 50-50 ground balls.

X-factor: Another matchup where I’ll be watching the faceoff X. Maloney will need to be on point for the Pioneers to reverse the previous result.

Pick: Longmeadow 11, St. John’s 10 (OT).


Hingham (21-3) vs. Medfield (21-3)

Players to watch: Hingham – G Tommy Bannan, M Caleb Brodie, M Jacob Brodie, A David Freitas, D Jack Ullrich; Medfield – D Ben Cox, M Matt Crowell, A Andrew Melvin, G Robert Treiber.

Breakdown: The last time these teams squared off at Harvard Stadium (2010), the result was a double-overtime instant classic. The Warriors, who were then on a run of two straight state titles, hope the result is near the same. These squads have been near lights-out in front of their goaltenders, so expect a low-scoring struggle.

X-factor: Cox and Ullrich: Two of the state’s best operating in their own end, they are game-changers.

Pick: Medfield 7, Hingham 5.


Lincoln-Sudbury (18-2) vs. Xaverian (15-6)

Players to watch: L-S – M Dan Delaney, A Jordan Dow, M Chris Giorgio, A Matt Hall, LSM Eamon Hunter, LSM John Sexton; Xaverian – D Rob Breed, M Ryan McClellan, M Ryan Scheib, A D.J. Sperzel, M Jack Wheeler.

Breakdown: It’s been a while since the two teams met in the first week of the season on April 6 (a 10-5 win for L-S), and many things have changed. The No. 1 seed Warriors held serve through the bracket, running through their opponents by a combined score of 41-11 on the road to Harvard. Meanwhile, the Hawks had to dispatch last year’s D1 finalist Needham and fend off Catholic Conference rival BC High — in overtime – in the semifinals.

X-factor: It doesn’t matter where he is (taking faceoffs, on defense, on the man-up), Sexton is a force. It’s always worth watching the manner in which head coach Brian Vona deploys Sexton in the game plan.

Pick: L-S 9, Xaverian 6.

D1 lacrosse: Lincoln-Sudbury 14, Billerica 1

June, 6, 2013
SUDBURY, Mass. - Something wasn't right with Jordan Dow.

During the past few weeks, the Lincoln-Sudbury senior attackman was having trouble getting into a rhythm with his teammates. His coach, Brian Vona, said the two-sport athlete couldn't even score goals in practice. Before the Warriors' game against Billerica in the Division 1 East lacrosse quarterfinals, Dow decided to shake things up and go through a pregame routine he uses during hockey season.

It worked.

Dow scored three goals and had seven assists against the Indians, as Lincoln-Sudbury cruised to a 14-1 win. With the victory, the Warriors advanced to the Division 1 East semifinals, which will be played on Saturday against Dual County League rival Acton-Boxborough.

“I prepared a little differently today. I went back to some of my hockey preparations, some of the routines that I did there. Things just clicked for me today. It's one of those things that you can't really put a finger on,” Dow said. “I just got out of it today, and hopefully it can continue from here.”

The Warriors put on a steady attack against an overmatched Billerica team, which spent most of the game in its own end. After testing the Indians' zone defense in the first half, Lincoln-Sudbury exploded in the third quarter with five goals – two of which came while a man up.

Dow netted all three of his goals in the third quarter. Chris Giorgio and Dan Delaney also scored during the period to put the score at 11-1.

The Indians, who began to sense a tide change, started getting extra aggressive with the Warriors and picked up a few penalties on some extracurricular pushing. John Merwin, a junior midfielder for Lincoln-Sudbury, said he could feel the momentum start to turn.

“When we really play together, we begin to notice that other teams start to fade away and turn on each other,” said Merwin, who had three goals in the game. “Once that started to happen, once it got a little chippy, we decided to stay together and play our game, and our offense moved the ball better than we've seen in awhile, and that's what we need going into this type of tournament.”

Lincoln-Sudbury put up another three goals in the fourth quarter, including a quick finish by Jake Klein, a junior attackman who game off the bench. It was Klein's first goal of the season.

Vona, whose Warriors squeaked by Billerica, 10-7, on May 6, knew his team needed to figure out a way to break through the Indians' zone defense, which tends to slow down the pace of the game.

“We practiced for the zone, and the kids moved the ball around well today. Ironically, we didn't do it so well in practice the last couple of days, but that's the way coaching goes,” he said. “We practiced for a couple of different looks, they gave us those looks … and they gave us the opportunities.”

Billerica goalie and UMass commit D.J. Smith slowed the Warrior attack through the first few minutes of the first quarter and made two point-blank saves on torso-level shots. Lincoln-Sudbury broke through with 7:14 left in the quarter when senior attackman Matt Hall went top shelf off an assist from Dow. The Warriors picked up another goal three minutes later when Greg Roder sidearmed a rocket to the top-right corner to put the score at 2-0.

Lincoln-Sudbury scored two more goals with less than two minutes left in the quarter – one on a quick-stick goal from Merwin and another from Hall, who hammered home a pass from Dow with 13 seconds left. The Warriors picked up where they left off in the second quarter when Hall scored an awkward goal on a pass that bounced off Smith's stick and rolled between the pipes. Merwin put the Warriors up 6-0 with 5:39 left in the half.

“They have some great athletes, they have a great team, and they're a force to be reckoned with,” said Billerica head coach Craig Flynn. “They can all move the ball really well. They don't have one-handed players – those guys play righty and lefty. … We put ourselves in a hole right away. It was one of those days where nothing bounced right.”

Billerica's only goal in the game came on an unassisted strike from senior caption Sean Farmer with 1:17 left in the first half.

The Indians, who entered the tournament as a No. 8 seed, will graduate 19 seniors.

“Our seniors have had a great four years and have a lot to be proud of,” Flynn said. “They were [Merrimack Valley Conference] champions four years straight. [Smith] was an All-American, he's had a great career here, and now he's going to UMass-Amherst. Those guys have a lot to be proud of.”

Duxbury, L-S matchup a timeless treat

May, 10, 2013
SUDBURY, Mass. – When it was finally over, the members of the Duxbury lacrosse coaching staff stood in silence, some of them doubled over, hands on knees, looking out at the sticks, gloves, helmets that were being tossed around in celebration. Having endured nearly eight quarters of play, the No. 1 Dragons finally cast off No. 2 Lincoln-Sudbury, 8-7, with 17 seconds to play in overtime No. 4.

Clearly dazed by the nerve-racking experience, a few moments after it ended, Duxbury head coach Chris Sweet took stock of what just unfolded.

It all seemed like a dream – more of the surrealist kind.

“Did we really play four overtimes?” Sweet asked, although not rhetorically. “You really kind of lose track of time in the middle of it.”

Speaking of time, the game was originally slated to start at 5:30 p.m., but its start was delayed to nearly 6 p.m., the result of the string of super-charged thunderstorms that rolled through the Metro-West communities. The turf was saturated. The air hung heavy with humidity, with the occasional whiff of charbroiled hamburgers from the snack shack. Still, the later start time allowed more of the late-arriving revelers to arrive in time for faceoff, with many caught in the snarling traffic that encircled Boston for the Thursday evening commute.

The tone was set from the opening faceoff. After Duxbury won the draw, Sweet decided to take a timeout 15 seconds in – an indication of how important each possession would be between two equally talented sides. No one was in a hurry. This was one for savoring.

The crowd was as big as you’d ever see for a regular-season varsity lacrosse game in the Commonwealth. Fans spilled out of the near-capacity bleachers and around the fencing. By halftime, L-S held a 4-3 lead. The last four minutes or so of the second quarter were played in a torrential downpour. Nobody left.

When the second half passed without resolution, they still remained. Duxbury’s junior varsity team stood in one corner of the far-side bleachers – all players still dressed in uniform, soaking wet. One player held a green flag with a white calligraphy-styled “D” on it. At one point during the fourth quarter, a couple Duxbury students procured the flag and took it on a tour around the track, passing in front of the L-S fan section, drawing jeers.

As the succession of overtimes wore on, there seemed no end. Man-up advantages came and went with the same result. Warriors goaltender Dario Morando and Duxbury counterpart Nick Marrocco had an answer for everything hurled their way.

By the middle of the third extra session, the pair of students administering the official score book for L-S had resigned themselves to inevitability.

“There’s no space for all these overtime periods in the book,” one said.

He paused for a minute and pondered when the game might ever end, adding, “Of course, I have two tests tomorrow to study for tonight. I don’t think that’s going to happen now.”

Soon thereafter, about midway through the third overtime, there was a momentary calm that fell over the huddled masses for a moment. After all the near misses, the fever pitch faded to a sigh.

“Why’d everybody get so quiet?” one L-S student during a pin-drop moment, drawing laughs from his peers.

On the field, exhaustion took its toll as well. Play slowed to begin the fourth overtime, and a few errant passes ended possessions for either side.

Tyler Powers scored the game-winner when the game appeared to be heading to a fifth extra frame. Seventeen seconds locked in on the scoreboard as his teammates ran to greet him.

“It’s one-hundred percent mental,” Powers said of combating weary legs, “not doing stupid things, not throwing passes away, not taking bad shots. And then, just taking the ball to the hoop.”

Although suffering a tough defeat, L-S head coach Brian Vona, himself a former goalkeeper, reveled in the clinic he’d just witnessed between the pipes.

“Wasn’t that awesome?” he beamed. He then broke off to gain the attention of the nearby athletic trainer to attend to Duxbury’s C.J. LoConte, who was splayed out on the turf, merely spent.

Yet, there’s no rest for the Dragons yet. They are scheduled to be back in action less than 24 hours later with another road game against Quincy.

The closest they’d come to relishing Thursday’s win came with the chocolate truffle coated wafers the Dragons manager had prepared for the postgame – a tradition in Duxbury’s program, passing out assorted sweets that is.

“Well, if we didn’t have a game tomorrow, I’d have to think about that,” Sweet said of his team’s recovery. “People talk about our schedule, the grind we put these guys through. There’ve been in some tough ones, but these guys are used to it. We play back-to-back games out-of-state. You’ve just got to be ready.”

Let’s do it again sometime soon.

SUDBURY, Mass. – Tyler Powers had just scored the game-winning goal in an epic quadruple overtime game between the Nos. 1 and 2 ranked lacrosse teams in Massachusetts.

So how did he plan to celebrate?

“I’ve got a lot of homework to do,” Powers said. “Other than that, I don’t know.”

After a rain-delayed start, the struggle between No. 1 Duxbury and No. 2 Lincoln-Sudbury spanned about three-hours’ time and nearly the full span of four, complete overtime periods. And yet, after all the expended time and energy, it remained apparent that the difference between Thursday’s competitors was a futile exercise akin to splitting hairs. The highly anticipated matchup between the long-standing MIAA Division 1 powers was worth every minute, and every raindrop, which — at times — fell in torrents.

But it was Powers, a junior attackman, who finally broke the defensive stalemate as a fifth extra session loomed. Just 17 seconds remained in the fourth overtime, when fellow junior Brendan Burke found the cutting Powers for the game-winner. After more than 63 minutes of elapsed play, Duxbury emerged with an 8-7 victory.

“C.J. [LoConte] set a pick for Brendan [Burke], Brendan then found me, hit me in stride,” Powers said. “I got by my defenseman and put it by the goalie like our coaches told us.”

Not much did pass between the goaltenders – Duxbury’s Nick Marrocco and the Warriors’ Dario Morando – who were brilliant. The standout saves were too numerous to tally, with both parties seemingly one-upping the other on each stop.

L-S head coach Brian Vona, a goaltender in his own day, called Marrocco “the player of the game” — a tall compliment paid in a game rife with superb defense.

“Nick’s about as tough as they get mentally, physically,” Duxbury head coach Chris Sweet said. “He’s fearless and it showed tonight. He was spectacular along with our three defenders Marshall [McCarthy], [Jon] Hurvitz and George Ward.”

For the scant offense that was available to either side, both teams received contributions beyond their usual cast of starters. Sweet called Burke’s three-goal effort the junior’s “game of his career.”

Meanwhile for the Warriors, who suffered their first defeat of the season and were playing without top offensive threats Dan Delaney and Henry Guild due to injury, junior Greg Roder helped fill the void with a two-goal game. Chris Giorgio was also a factor, scoring a goal and adding two assists.

Giorgio’s greatest thrill was for not, however. L-S started the third overtime period with a man-up advantage. After cycling the ball around, Giorgio had Marrocco beat with a quick rip to the left-hand post. Giorgio’s shot kicked up the slack on the side of net – for a moment, drawing the Warriors’ faithful into a frenzy. The shot landed wide of the post, however, and Marrocco coolly collected the ball and cleared to end the threat.

Both teams have dealt with recent injury woes. And while L-S (11-1) was without a couple of its top offensive options Thursday, Duxbury (12-4) is on the mend.

The Dragons rotation was bolstered by Trevor O’Brien and Jack and Shayne Sullivan returning to the mix. And although Sweet has had to mix and match his attack during the last couple weeks, it’s also been a trial by fire for his group.

“We’ve had our share of injuries, but what it’s done is that it’s built a lot of depth for us,” Sweet said. “That can be a good thing. We saw a lot of kids step up today who you probably haven’t heard much from.”

Now, the task is building chemistry among the replenished ranks.

“Our team has a lot of depth,” Powers said. “We have a bunch of middies. They’ve been working hard. The kids that took their place have been playing great, doing what they can to help the team.”

Aside from the goaltending, the true stars of the duel were the poles. And, at times, they weren’t limited to the defensive half.

Hardly a play went into the L-S half field without Notre Dame-bound long-stick John Sexton throwing his height around. In addition, the rangy junior also chipped in on the Warriors’ man-up situations. Also, in close defense, Matt Barker was a revelation for the Warriors, with his crafty stick-check during a key Duxbury possession in the third overtime as a highlight.

Likewise, the Dragons’ vaunted defense came to play.

Highly-touted, Fairfield-bound pole Jay Walsh was a ground ball hound, including a couple pick-ups on faceoffs during the overtime periods.

Marshall McCarthy was a force, scooping up key ground balls in the defensive half, while also stepping into the breakout with an assist. It was a pivotal performance from a player who (can you believe this?) didn't play in his sophomore season and is in his first year as a defender.

“I think he could play Division 1 lacrosse right now,” Marrocco laughed about McCarthy, who was also ESPN Boston’s MIAA football Defensive Player of the Year.

Recap: No. 2 Lincoln-Sudbury 19, No. 5 A-B 8

April, 28, 2013
SUDBURY, Mass. - For a moment in the early minutes of the second quarter, Lincoln-Sudbury lacrosse fans would have been excused if they suddenly experienced flashbacks to the team's previous meeting against Acton-Boxborough.

On April 4, the Colonials came storming back after L-S had opened up a six-goal advantage, actually taking the lead late before the Warriors rallied to come back for a 12-11 victory.

Saturday, L-S came flying out of the gates once again and built a 6-0 lead with 3:03 left in the first quarter. Thomas Cotter scored twice in a row, followed by a dodge-and-rip by Scott Rogers that cut the deficit to 6-3 with 5:36 left in the second.

This time around, however, there would be no comeback as the second-ranked Warriors reeled off seven of the next eight and went on to finish with a 19-8 victory over No. 5 A-B at Myers field.

"No one was worried," said L-S midfielder Greg Roder, one of three players to score four goals in the game. "We knew what happened last time and how it was a close game and we knew we were going to take it right back from them."

Take it right back L-S (9-0) did, as Henry Guild (four goals, three assists), Jordan Dow (two goals, three assists) and Roder all scored to close out the first half with a 9-3 lead.

Guild and A-B's (10-2) Hunter Arnold traded goals to open the third, then L-S stuck three in a row - two from Roder around one from Dan Delaney (four goals, two assists) - to push the advantage to 13-4.

Cotter completed his hat trick to temporarily stop the bleeding, but the Warriors responded with scores from Dow, Guild and Delaney to push the lead back into double digits (16-5), before both coaches mutually agreed to start emptying the benches.

"I think they are a very good team," L-S coach Brian Vona said of Acton-Boxborough. "I think they are a well coached team but I think our kids were just ready, they were ready for tonight. They’ve been practicing hard. I know its age old stuff, but they’ve been practicing hard, they’re working hard, and they’re playing together."
SUDBURY, Mass. – A 16-3 win by Lincoln-Sudbury boys’ lacrosse over North Andover in the final of Saturday’s Coaches Challenge Cup can only tell you so much about this Warriors team.

The enduring image – outside of the game’s score as the scoreboard hit triple zeroes – came about a half hour following the win. On a nearby practice field, a group of Warriors players were helping to the clear the field for Monday’s practice. Youth soccer games left a set of nets on the field. As part of a challenge issued during Friday’s team practice by head coach Brian Vona, the losers of a drill were going to be forced to perform odd jobs on Saturday, including the clean up of the practice field and clearing the 8-yard by 8-foot frames. The nets dwarfed the team members scurrying underneath them, like a colony of ants moving leaves on the forest floor.

“I feel like we’re building,” Vona said following the team’s Cup win, the progam’s second. “We’re not where we’re going to be in June, not even close. We have a long way to go. We’re slowly improving on some things that, maybe things that you might not see, but we’re improving on things that we had to work on.

“So I feel good, knowing that we’re progressing.”

That progress was set in motion two years ago when the Warriors’ seniors were sophomores. Many of them were pressed into immediate service that season, before they might have otherwise. due to a rash of (at times, freakish) injuries. One player was cut severely on a plate glass window at his church and missed time in 2011.

That chain of events gave a deep and talented class a running start while growing into one of the state’s Division 1 title favorites this season.

“I think a huge part of that is the confidence knowing that we’ve played together … almost all of our starters have played together since sophomore year,” said Henry Guild, a Yale commit who led the Warriors with a hat trick and six points on Saturday. “We’ve played in big games and we have confidence in knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

Vona maintains there’s room for improvement, even with the Warriors’ offense, which operates with the efficiency of a Swiss watch.

But with a slew of high Division 1 recruits on offense, including Dan Delaney, Matt Hall, Chris Giorgio, among others, there’s not much that can slow down L-S.

“When we possess the ball on offense,” Vona said, “we control our destiny.”

The Warriors have also taken care of business in their own end. There’s plenty of talent to be found among L-S’s poles, including Sam Chen, Eamon Hunter and John Sexton. And they’ve been able to keep it out of their own cage.

“The key thing is that we’re talking,” Hunter said. “You hear it on the bench, you hear it on the field. You hear it from Dario [Morando]. When we’re talking, we play more aggressively. We’ve motivated to grab the ball, turn it over to the offense and get them started.”

Coaches Cup: L-S, North Andover advance

April, 18, 2013
CONCORD, Mass. –- With seven players finding the back of the net on Wednesday, Lincoln-Sudbury (5-0) showed off one of the most balanced and productive efforts of the young 2013 season as they defeated Dover-Sherborn, 15-4.

No. 2 Lincoln-Sudbury, playing at full strength for one of the first times this season, used a 7-0 second quarter run to pull away from No. 13 D-S (5-1) in the first round of the 2013 Coaches Challenge Cup.

“It was just a team effort today,” L-S head coach Brian Vona said after the game.

L-S was led in scoring on the day by senior attack Jordan Dow, who netted four goals to go with one assist.

“When we get both the midfielders and attack going we can be a tough team to beat,” Dow said.

Middies Dan Delaney, Brendan McCartthy, Harlan Smart, and Henry Guild each scored two goals and Greg Roder added one for the victors.

“It is what we talked about,” Vona said. “We had a couple of kids trying to do it all and we just talked about sharing the ball and we did.”

Two-Way Middie: Fairfield-bound middie Chris Giorgio (2 Goals) scored the games opening goal, eight seconds into the first quarter, on an aggressive dodge off a John Sexton face-off win.

As good as Giorgio looked on the offensive end it was work on the defensive end of the field that drew praise from his head coach.

“He is a very good player,” Vona said. “We did not get him into to many offensive sets today because we had him coming in on the wings so much and I did not want to gas him. He took the ball away from kids with the short stick a few times. The kid has worked really hard for us so I am proud for him.”

Opening Quarter: It may not have been how Vona drew up the start of the game but D-S came out moving and possessing the ball as they lead 2-1 after the first quarter.

“In the first quarter we were just trying to do too much,” Vona said. “Every one person was trying to do it themselves but when we sit back and trust each other and move the ball I think we are a good team.”

D-S, playing without senior attack Brandon Jaeger, who was out with an injury, got a strong opening effort from attackmen Grant Gregory (1G) and Matt Davies (1G, 1A).

From the second quarter on it would be all L-S as they used their depth, balance and strong two-way play to control the game.

“We settled down in the second quarter, got the quality dodges we wanted and executed,” Dow added.

L-S will take-on long-time neighboring rival Concord-Carlisle in the 4 p.m. semifinal game of the Coaches Challenge Cup on Thursday at Andover High School.

North Andover Advances: North Andover had finished in last place (Eighth) during the past two years of the Coaches Challenge Cup. On Wednesday they took a big step toward changing recent history as they defeated Division 2 power Hingham, 7-6, in the day’s closest contest.

After an opening half that saw both teams score only one goal each North Andover coach Ryan Connolly knew that his team had to start taking advantage of opportunities if they were going to prevail.

“We knew they would come around as long as we could start burying our opportunities,” Connolly said. “We were a little stagnant and we did not come out of the gates flying like I was expecting the guys too. Then we really started turning it on.”

Both teams came out of the second half more aggressive as Hingham middie Caleb Broadie (3 G) and North Andover attack Nick Pino (4G) matched each other goal for goal in a battle of two of the top talents in Eastern Massachusetts lacrosse.

Trailing 6-4 with 7:26 remaining in the game North Andover received three unanswered goals from attack Dante Querci (2G) and Pino to give them the final lead of the game.

The North Andover defensive unit of goalie Cosmo Capabianco and defenders Colin Cronin, Tom O’Mara, and Joe Samuelman all played very well down the stretch for NA in the win.

North Andover will take on Wellesley at 2 p.m. in the other semifinal match-up on Thursday at Andover High School.

D1 boys' lax: All in the draw for L-S

June, 7, 2012

SUDBURY, Mass. -- One of the worst-kept secrets throughout the regular season has been Lincoln-Sudbury's struggles at the faceoff X. Game after game, the Warriors would have to rely on its athletic defense to hold the fort in order to get possessions back for the offense.

Despite being able to survive such a glaring deficiency for much of the year, L-S coach Brian Vona has been outspoken on the point that, if his team was going to make a postseason run, the faceoff game would have to improve.

If you look closely at the t-shirts sticking out from under the fourth-seeded Warriors (16-5) game jerseys, you'll see the word 'wematin.' Wematin is a Native American term that stands for 'brother.' For our purposes, 'brotherhood' may be the more appropriate usage, as one of the Warriors own has come back to help out, and the results have been a smashing success in Lincoln-Sudbury's first two playoff victories.

"Two words - Trevor Shorb," Vona stated after watching his team eliminate fifth-seed Billerica (16-6) from the tournament with an 11-4 victory Wednesday afternoon.

Shorb is a 2010 graduate of Lincoln-Sudbury and just wrapped up his sophomore year at Colby College, where had 12 points and won 12-of-21 faceoffs as a reserve midfielder. Shorb was also the lynch-pin of the Warriors dynamic offense in 2010, serving as one of the state's elite faceoff men for what was a dynamic and exciting offense.

Since finishing the spring semester, Shorb and a collection of L-S alumni have come back to town to lend a helping hand to this year's squad. Shorb has been working with the faceoff guys - sophomore long-stick defender John Sexton leads a group of five players who take draws - on technique and and giving tips on how to improve.

After losing a vast majority of draws during the year, the Warriors are up to break-even or better in the tournament and are continuing to improve.

"My alumni guys are the best, they come back and help us all the time," Vona explained. "Trevor's watching video for us, he's telling us how to counter moves. He's a great kid. And our faceoff guys are working hard too. We only had to run two of them today but we're prepared to run five guys."

The Warriors only had to use two against Billerica, and with a collection of skilled and athletic offensive players ready to run, the extra possessions have been a huge key to the team's third semifinal appearance in the last four years.

Dan Delaney and Henry Guild each had hat tricks but L-S had seven goal-scorers in all against the Indians. The confident offensive unit is clicking at such a high level and the execution has been near flawless, the result of a season's worth of coaching and repetition.

But it has been the success on draws, as well as the efforts of the wing players flying in to scoop those precious ground balls, that has made the biggest impact of late.

"It's something we've been working on in practice all week. Time of possession is huge in these games, Delaney said. "Whoever has the ball most obviously can score. Our faceoff guys have been working their tails off all week. Before practice, after practice just getting after each other and we've started to win some faceoffs, which has obviously helped us with possessions."

Added Guild, "We've got a couple older players like Trevor Shorb that came back and gave our faceoff guys a bunch of drills to do. They've been coming out before practice and working on getting quicker hands facing off against each other. John Sexton did exceptional today and he's a big part of that. The first time we played Billerica we won two maybe three but now we're winning 50 percent or right around there."