BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – It was a long-time coming.
In its fifth year of varsity play, Bridgewater-Raynham boys’ lacrosse had yet to claim a postseason victory. After qualifying in each of the last three seasons, the Trojans were looking to snap their three game losing streak in the MIAA tournament. This year, B-R had earned the No. 9 seed with a 15-3 regular-season record and, with it, won the right to host a Division 1 preliminary-round game.
That opportunity came Wednesday when B-R took on No. 24 seed Central Catholic. During the first half, it appeared the Trojans would have to sweat out their first-ever playoff win – if they were that lucky. The Raiders proved to be worthy adversaries, holding four separate one-goal leads in the first half. It remained a one-goal game early in the second half, as well.
But after an early third-quarter goal from Central, the Trojans separated, closing out the game with a string of 10 straight goals in a 16-5 win and, in the process, notching that elusive postseason victory.
“I wish there was some great coaching thing I could tell you that we did,” Trojans head coach Matt Connolly said when asked about halftime adjustments, “but really it was kids connecting on passes and I think our athleticism won out.”
B-R (16-3) leaned on two talented sophomore attacks in Gavin Perry and Travis Reid. Combined, they accounted for 11 of the Trojans’ 16 goals, with Reid leading all scorers with six (in addition to an assist).
A short Central bench made for weary legs – particularly in the defensive half – in the second half and the Trojans took full advantage.
“We wore them down a little,” Connolly said. “We have good athleticism, but we still have to become better lacrosse players, but we have good athletes. We get up and down the field. That wore them down a little bit and that was huge.”
Still, the Raiders (9-9) looked poised to pull an upset in the first half. The teams traded goals throughout the first half and Jack McInnis’ second goal of the game made it a tie game, 4-4, with 6:11 remaining in the half. But the Trojans responded, scoring twice in the final minute of the second quarter on goals by Reid and Matt Cicalis, establishing a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Central was on the board first in the second half, as Tom Cannif scored 19 seconds in, making it a one-goal game once more. From there, B-R was simply dominant.
“They were pressing a little bit and maybe feeling the pressure of having a home seed,” Connolly said, “being the higher seed, expecting too much of themselves and maybe not enough of the other team.”
In the second half, the Raiders rarely crossed midfield, with play almost exclusively carried by the Trojans’ attack. On those rare occasions Central was able to break through B-R’s midfield, a defense led by Matt Miller and Ryan Murphy ensured a quick exit and – on more than a few instances during the second half – stemmed transition.
“We were ball-watching and we weren’t communicating,” Connolly said of his team’s first-half defensive effort. “A couple of goals, they just went straight to the cage and there were no slides there.”
With one postseason now to its credit, B-R will have to be on point again Saturday (4:30 p.m.) when it travels to No. 8 seed Billerica.
“They’re one of the premiere, historical programs here in Massachusetts,” Connolly said. “We’re looking forward to challenging ourselves.”