Boston High School: James Caruso

D1 boys' lax final: How Sweet it is for Duxbury

June, 14, 2012

ALLSTON, Mass. -- One of the great things about high school sports is that you often find a situation in which a parent and a child get to go through a four-year experience together as player and coach.

To able to share in a state championship together? When it comes to Duxbury lacrosse, there can be no Sweet-er feeling.

The Dragons offense seemed to feature a different lead scorer every game during the 2012 campaign. It's almost as if it's scripted that, on any given day, it's going to be so and so's turn to get the goals. While the team certainly doesn't do that, it seemed fitting that leading scorer in Wednesday's Div. 1 title game was senior Sam Sweet.

Growing up as a lacrosse player in Duxbury with the last name Sweet can't be all too easy. Just because of the name on your back, the already high expectations that surround the team on an annual basis get ratcheted up even further when your father is the man who has served as the architect of Massachusetts' true lacrosse dynasty.

Sam Sweet has found a way to set those expectations aside and just play his game, and the senior produced a hat trick as a key component in the Dragons 10-8 victory over Needham at Harvard Stadium. The win gives the Dragons nine Div. 1 state titles since 2002.

"There's a lot of expectations with everyone on this team," Sweet said afterward. "Almost every senior is going to on to play college ball so there's a lot of high expectations for us. We just have to put those aside. We're still in high school. We just try to focus on our goal of winning a state championship."

"Over the last four years, it's been awesome," the Hamilton College-bound senior continued. "I've played with these guys since I was eight years old, growing up with them its been awesome to be here. And to finish it off like this is a perfect way to finish off a senior season."

Sam has been on the sidelines for every Duxbury lacrosse game since he was in the first grade, and by the time he hit middle school, he watched his older brother Derek win a state championship alongside his father and knew that was an experience he wanted to have as well.

Chris Sweet has often ducked questions about Sam, preferring to keep things focused on the team as a whole. But on this night, as the two were able to pose for pictures together on the Harvard Stadium turf with the state championship plaque in hand, Dad couldn't help but wax a little nostalgic about his youngest son.

"I wouldn't trade it for anything," Chris Sweet said. "To be out here with Sam and to get to be with him every day on the field is a fathers dream. It's been hard at times. I have to treat him like the rest of the guys. But as his father, Im extremely proud of him. I'm sad its over but its time for him and his classmates to move on in life."

For the son, the experience of sharing these moments with his father will last a lifetime.

"It's pretty cool. I wouldn't ask for it any other way," Sam Sweet said. "Kids don't always get to spend this much time with their Dad and I've been lucky for that. To do it like this and come out win all these games together, it's really cool. When we're out on the field he treats me like any other player. It's not any harder or easier. But when we get home, he's my Dad."

While the Dragons routinely dominate the lacrosse landscape of Massachusetts, the act of actually winning the state title doesn't always happen how one might think. Since 2007, the Dragons have only had one blowout win, a 16-9 triumph of St. John's Prep last year. Duxbury needed overtime to topple Xaverian (2007) and Billerica (2008), then the Prep played them to a one-goal game in 2009.

With the Dragons holding a 10-4 lead after three quarters, it looked like the rout was on. Needham had other ideas though, breaking out a Lee Corso-styled "Not so fast my friend!" over the final 12 minutes.

"I can't even remember the first half. I think we were ahead," said Sweet with a laugh following the game. "We stuck to the gameplan, we did what got us here. Needham battled back in the second half and they made a game of it. They are athletic, they're well coached and they are scrappy. They don't give up. Thats why the score was that close at the end."

The Rockets didn't get the memo that they were just supposed to play dead in the face of the Dragons, and a rare faceoff win led to a Mark Riley goal just 41 seconds into the final frame to kick off a comeback attempt.

Nico Panepinto added his fourth goal of the game just under four minutes later, and a series of penalties left Needham with a 5-on-3 situation and Duxbury's backup goalie in the cage, which they cashed in on as Mikey Panepinto fed James Caruso for a man up goal at 7:13.

Timmy Parlato, a heart-and-soul kind of player if there ever was one, then made it a two-goal game after scooping a ground ball from a deflected Riley shot and burying his own with 5:53 to play.

"In the early stages of the game we got backdoored a little bit, we didn't see some things very well and because of that they got their hands free inside the crease and they were able to finish some really high percentage shots," explained Needham coach Dave Wainwright. "This is a game thats all about momentum. We were able to capture some and we rode it well.On defense we changed up three different times how to go after them and we figured out that we justhaad to go play some man to man and try and take the ball away. We were able to create some turnovers and pressure them and that gave us some opportunities."

D1 boys' lax: Needham 12, BC High 7

June, 10, 2012
NEEDHAM, Mass. -- Needham is heading to Harvard.

The No. 6 seed Needham Rockets took down No. 10 B.C. High on Saturday, 12-7, in the East Division 1 Semifinal, to move ahead to the Final at Harvard Stadium on Wednesday.

“Playing at Harvard has been a goal that these guys have set since I would say even years back,” Needham head coach Dave Wainwright said. “For us, last year we missed it by a goal against Saint John’s Prep to get there. We feel like that final piece of the journey is now – it’s now there for us. So we’re excited to say the least.”

The Rockets (16-5) lit up in the fourth quarter netting six goals –- a total they combined in the first three -- but the final frame was cat-and-mouse action with a 2-1-2 pattern in their favor.

Up 6-4, Needham’s Mark Riley (3 G) tallied his second straight shot -- the team’s first of the fourth quarter -- at 10:15, running up the middle against BC High’s Jonathan Barton in net. Timmy Parlato followed with a similar shot just eight seconds later for the double lead over the Eagles (13-9).

“Big sigh out of me,” Wainwright said. “When Timmy does big moments like that and becomes that big playmaker that he has been all season for us, we know things are going in the right direction.”

BC High’s Corey Davidson (2 G), who had a big game in the Eagles’ last match, answered with his second of the game at 8:47 on a bouncing shot on Needham’s Lucas Davis.

The Rockets fired back with two straight goals. At 6:48, Nico Panepinto (3 G) twisted his body in the circle to lay the ball in and, at 5:37, Mike Vespa scored from the left wing with James Caruso (2 G, 1 A) assisting.

Alex O’Brien netted B.C. High’s sixth goal at 4:35, but really Needham was taking charge. Nico Panepinto tallied again at 4:22 in front of the goal and Caruso scored the 12th at 3:22 on an open net.

BC High’s Brendan Hogan put the final ball in with 2:20 remaining.

Needham held a 3-0 lead after goals by Mikey Panepinto, Riley and Jamie McGill. BC High came within one for a 3-2 score after goals at 4:27 and 3:01, but again Needham put two past Barton in quick succession at 2:11 and 2:05. B.C. pulled within two to end the first half.

Davis made 18 saves in between the pipes and drew the praises of his coach.

“I don’t really get tired of answering questions about a kid that has been playing for me since eighth grade,” Wainwright said. “He’s an absolute joy to have, an absolute pleasure for our defense to play for. My guys, like I’ve said before and I”ll say it again, they rally to play for him and [Davis] feeds off that confidence and that’s why he’s able to do the things he does.

“[He] kind of came out and he felt a little uneasy because, like everyone, they’re high school kids and they felt some nerves, and his veteran leadership and his ability to take from his experience in the past two years, he was able to really put it on the field today.”

Needham will face No. 1 Duxbury in the final at 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday. Duxbury more than doubled up No. 4 Lincoln-Sudbury, 18-6, on Saturday.

“We’re looking forward to it because we’ve seen them before and, when you’ve seen something, the mystery is now gone,” Wainwright said. “It’ll be gone for both teams and I realize that. But I feel like we’re going to give it our best shot, and you know what, no one is really going to pick us, but we’re going to be the ones to hopefully be that spoiler.”
NEEDHAM, Mass. – From the way it started, its outcome would seem dubious.

No. 19 Norwood came charging out of the gate, scoring the game’s first goal against Bay State rival No. 6 Needham on Wednesday. The Mustangs also held a 2-1 lead midway through the first quarter.

Things simply unraveled from there as the Rockets coasted to a 13-2 victory.

“That third quarter was probably the best offense we’ve played all season, spinning the ball and keeping it hot,” Needham attack Nico Panepinto said of the Rockets’ six-goal third.

Panepinto and Jamie McGill paced the Rockets’ high-fueled attack with four goals each. Robbie Pisano chipped in two goals of his own, while James Caruso, Alex Mirages and Mike Riley also found the back of the net.

But the Needham (12-4) attack started at midfield with the expert face-off work of Caruso, who won over 80 percent of his draws. It was a complete effort for the midfielder, who also won a team-high five ground balls.

“It makes all the difference when you’re able to win the ball and get it to the offense,” Panepinto said of Needham’s faceoff dominance. “That means everything.”

While the Mustangs (11-4) were off to hot start, Needham’s defense quickly regrouped and held Norwood to just three shots at the cage for the remainder of the first half.

Rockets head coach Dave Wainwright said it was a credit to the team’s pillars.

“[Mike] Vespa, [Dan] Kavanaugh, those guys have done a fantastic job of kind of jelling together, and with Lucas [Davis] inside the cage, it’s been a nice little group and a foundation for everyone to build confidence on.”

Needham lax pair give commitments

February, 23, 2012
ESPNHS lacrosse editor Mike Loveday checks in today on the Lacrosse blog with the commitments of two Needham High lacrosse players.

First, James Carusso, a senior face off/midfielder for the Rockets, committed Merrimack College.

Also, during the weekend, Mike Panepinto, a sophomore midfielder, committed to UMass-Amherst.

Carusso also plays with the 128 Lacrosse Club, while Panepinto is a member of Laxachusetts' offseason teams. Panepinto's older brother, Needham junior attack Nico, has committed to play lacrosse at Fairfield.

Needham romps over Westford Academy

June, 5, 2011
NEEDHAM, Mass. -- It was anyone’s game half way through the third quarter.

But after Needham midfielder Mark Riley scored with 5:46 remaining in the third it was all Rockets, going on a 10-to-1 run to close out their Division 1 boys' lacrosse first-round tournament game with No. 12 seed Westford Academy, winning 16-7.

Riley (4 goals, 1 assist) started his run from the top of the restraining line, went to his right and ripped off a quick low shot for the score. But the All-American was quick to deflect the glory after the game.

“That was a big goal, but right after that goal James Caruso our face-off guy started winning them,” Riely said after the victory. “We got three [faceoffs] in a row and that really changed the momentum of the game, so I got to owe it to him, give him credit”

Needham head coach Dave Wainwright echoed Riley’s sentiments.

“James Caruso won, I think, at least five faceoff’s for us in a row, and our offense was able to capitalize on that.”

The Rockets had seven different goal scorers, but it took Needham two and a half quarters to get their offense going thanks to the excellent play of Westford Academy’s freshman goalie Peter Hargrave.

“He was tremendous throughout the game,” Grey Ghost’s head coach Gus Bickford said of his goaltender. “What ended up happening to us was that we didn’t have the ball in the offensive zone in the third and fourth quarter.”

Westford Academy ended its season at 15-7 and claimed a share of the Dual County Large Championship for the first time in school history along the way.

“The two words we used all season were effort and attitude, and it came from the top,” Bickford said referring to his graduating seniors.

Westford Academy has a strong group of underclassmen returning next season including Hargrave and freshman attacker Jay Drapeau, who had four goals on the evening.

Needham (17-2) will play Masconomet (18-1) on Wednesday in a quarterfinal and the Rockets know they’ll need to improve if they hope to advance.

“Every single one of our guys made a mistake, and they all accepted their responsibility for it,” Wainwright said postgame.

“Everything,” Riley added when asked what the Rockets needed to improve on. “We came out slow, we’ve got to get up early, Masconomet is a good team.”