Boston High School: Mike O'Connell

DUXBURY, Mass. – As Lincoln-Sudbury boys’ lacrosse team kneeled around the crease for a postgame breakdown, with their head coach Brian Vona in goal, they were reminded on what they’d just accomplished. The Warriors’ win Wednesday at No. 1 Duxbury was more than just a victory over the perceived best team in the state this year.

This one was for all that had come before.

[+] EnlargeJack McCready
Scott Barboza/ESPNBoston.comLincoln-Sudbury senior goaltender Jack McCready made 11 saves en route to a 9-7 win over rival Duxbury.
They were reminded of all the previous great L-S teams who – despite their best efforts – could never do one thing – beat the Dragons. The Warriors did just that, 9-7, but not reflected in the sizeable crowd that gathered for Massachusetts’ premiere public school rivalry was all who were with them in thought.

“There were hundreds of alumni, sending us texts, emails, reminding us about how important this game is,” said senior long-stick midfielder John Sexton, a four-year letterman, “how many careers have ended on this field, right here.”

The regular-season meeting between L-S and Duxbury last year was a quadruple-overtime classic, with the Dragons extending their all-time winning streak over the Warriors and Tyler Powers providing the game-winner in an 8-7 decision.

This year’s duel took on the same intensity from the opening faceoff with a frenetic first quarter when L-S (10-3) took a 5-4 lead with one second remaining on a goal by Eric Holden. The Warriors and Dragons (10-3) went tit-for-tat in the second, with L-S taking a 7-6 lead into the half.

Despite holding the lead, L-S was frustrated by Dragons goaltender Nick Marrocco, who made four of his eight saves during the second quarter.

“He’s an awesome goaltender, and I’ll tell you, he broke our spirit a couple times with some of those saves,” Vona said.

Sloppy play held back Duxbury in the second half, as the Dragons committed nine giveaways in the final two quarters. Yet, the Warriors’ stifling defense also had a significant while holding Duxbury off the scoreboard in the third quarter.

“They were doing great in transition, so we were trying to limit their opportunities in transition,” Sexton said. “We were feeling very confident with Jack [McCready] in net behind us and our defense was really working hard for each other out there.”

Sexton scored the lone goal of the third to give L-S an 8-6 lead.

The Warriors amassed their biggest lead of the game with 5:08 remaining in the fourth, when junior attack Mike O’Connell netted his fourth goal of the game off a feed from Nick Brindisi (1 G, 2 A).

Duxbury countered with a goal by Trevor O’Brien at 4:40, assisted by his brother, Shayne (2 G, 2 A), but turnovers again came back to haunt the Dragons in their final two possessions.

“I think we really came together over the last couple weeks,” said Sexton, reflecting on the Warriors’ upset loss to North Andover at the Coaches Challenge Cup. “We have more confidence, we started getting better in practice, working harder.”

‘Third-string’ no more: Vona knew he had a robust defense in place entering the season, with trusted returning starters Matt Barker, Eamon Hunter and Sexton, among others. But the question was in goal where the job was left to senior Jack McCready. A third-string goalie for the Warriors last year, to say McCready was untested would be an understatement.

Following McCready’s 11-save performance against the Dragons, L-S knows exactly what it has.

“He made saves today that I’ve never seen him make,” Barker, a senior close defender, said of McCready. “When people would get beat, I’d turn around and boom – save. I was just mind-blown.”

That has, in turn, instilled an added sense of security for what was already perhaps the state’s best defensive units this season – a scary proposition in the final month of the regular season.

“We love having him behind us because we can play so much more freely,” Sexton said.

Notable quotables: When talking about his teammates’ effort in the midfield, eliminating the Dragons’ transition game in the second half, it was difficult for Sexton to contain his excitement

“Our midfielders were tracking their …,” he said, then inserting a phrase which will be omitted to protect the innocent.

“Pardon me. They were getting back and … working hard.”

Sexton’s salty sentiment underscored a key component to the Warriors’ victory, which had helped Duxbury to a 2-0 lead out of the chute on goals by Shayne O’Brien and Brendan Burke. L-S ground down the pace of the Dragons’ transition play throughout the second half, as Duxbury continued to victimize itself with errant passes.

While the Dragons undoubtedly will come away from the matchup of perennial Division 1 championship contenders feeling as though they left some goals off the board, credit is also due to the Warriors’ confidence in their own half of the field.

“Six-on-six, we had them today,” Barker said.
WINCHESTER, Mass. – The boys’ lacrosse teams of Concord-Carlisle and Wellesley have customarily met, as if a rite of spring, in the Division 2 Eastern Mass. tournament each year. Those encounters are always close, evidenced by the Raiders’ 4-3 win in the teams’ first-round playoff matchup last spring.

But, with redistricting taking place this year, Wellesley moved up to Division 1 – meaning there will be no more such postseason classics. That didn’t mean the teams wouldn’t have a chance to renew their rivalry, however, as they met in Thursday’s Coaches Challenge Cup Tournament semifinal.

The Raiders used two early goals from senior midfielder Matt Dziama to build a lead they wouldn’t relinquish as they advanced to Saturday’s championship with an 8-5 win.

“They’re smart, they’re tough, they make it hard on you,” Wellesley head coach Rocky Batty said of the Patriots.

Dziama finished with three goals and an assist to lead all scorers, while fellow midfielder David Jennings also chipped in a pair of goals.

While the Raiders (8-2) never trailed, C-C (4-4) did come back to tie the score at the 7:56 mark of the second quarter on a goal by Will Blumenberg. But Dziama would put the Raiders back in the lead heading into the half, tallying his third goal with 17 remaining.

“John got off to a quick start and we need that because we didn’t do anything after that,” Batty said. “It was kind of walking through mud for a long time.”

Steven Armanetti led the Patriots with a pair of goals, while goaltender Aidan Long made 13 saves.

Wellesley advances to face Dover-Sherborn in Saturday’s championship game (4 p.m. at North Andover H.S.). And, while the Raiders look for another resume-builder, following last weekend’s win over nationally-ranked Cold Spring Harbor of New York, Dziama saw Thursday’s victory as another building block in settling into the offense.

“We’re possessing the ball longer than we had been earlier in the season,” Dziama said. “It’s a great tournament to work on everything. Offensively, we could have done more today, but we possessed the ball and that helped us.”

Semifinal: Dover-Sherborn 15, North Andover 4
After North Andover dealt Lincoln-Sudbury perhaps the biggest upset in state on the early season during its first-round matchup on Tuesday, the Scarlet Knights were hit with a chink in their armor against the Division 3 power.

The Raiders (6-2) turned in a dominant performance, amassing a 7-2 halftime lead with freshman Bailey Laidman ripping off three first-half goals.

“We’re starting to move the ball better,” D-S head coach Brian McLaughlin said. We’re been working at it in practice and trying to get better at it. We started off the season just dodging and trying to shoot and score.

“We’re being more patient, I’d like to see more patience, but we’re getting better at that.”

As a result, the Raiders turned in their highest offensive yield of the season, including four goals from senior attack Grant Gregory as part of a six-point game. It’s an encouraging sign from the all-league player who played his third game back following a broken finger.

“He did a lot of lifting this summer, put on a lot of weight and now he’s trying to catch his wind back because he hasn’t been playing as much,” McLaughlin said. “He’s definitely a threat for us.”

Chris Williams and Will Spangenberg also netted hat tricks for D-S, while John Enright led North Andover (7-4) with two goals.

The Scarlet Knights will play C-C in a consolation game on Saturday (2 p.m.).

Hingham 9, Andover 6
The Coaches Cup presents an early season litmus test to all of its participants and, after dropping its first matchup of the week to Wellesley (9-8), Hingham rebounded with a win that still left head coach John Todd looking for more from his squad.

“They’re quality enough to pressure us and put us in bad situations,” Todd said. “And then we made poor decisions. Some of it was on them, some of it was on us. We did enough to win and we took advantage of some chances, but we’re still making early season mistakes.”

The Harbormen (8-3) struggled on offense at times, but put forward a balanced attack with nine players hitting the score sheet, led by a pair of two-goal games from Caleb Brodie (2 G, 2A) and Matt Giarusso.

In the other half of the field, however, Hingham played the brand of defense Todd has become accustomed to. Goaltender Jack Santilli made 16 saves while All-American long-stick midfielder Jack Ullrich led all players with five ground balls.

“Our defense is extremely strong and our goaltender is phenomenal,” Todd said. “So that kind of works into our strength – not that we’re not worried about teams – but as long as we play the way we’re capable of playing, we should be able to limit other teams.”

Lincoln-Sudbury 17, Winchester 1
In an effort to move past Tuesday’s upset to North Andover (9-8), L-S flexed its offensive muscle, owning play from the onset of its second-round matchup against host Winchester.

The Warriors (7-2) held the Sachems (6-3) scoreless until the 7:19 mark of the third quarter.

Meanwhile, the offense came in bowlfuls for L-S, which had eight different point scorers. Mike O’Connell and Greg Roder (6 points) had four goals apiece, while Eric Holden had three.

Nick Brindisi (2 G) and Harlan Smart each distributed three assists.

Recap: Lincoln-Sudbury 5, Wellesley 3

April, 4, 2014
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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.

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