MEDFIELD, Mass. - When Jack Isaf collected a pass, ducked past an onrushing Longmeadow defender and bounced his shot past Matt Draymore, it gave Medfield its first lead of the game. As it turned out, it was the only one that the Warriors would need.
In Saturday night’s rematch of last season’s Division 2 state championship game, Isaf’s third goal of the game with little more than two minutes remaining provided Medfield with a 10-9 victory over visiting Longmeadow. It was also a little revenge for the Warriors for the 2013 final.
“You know that you’re going to get punched and you have to punch back; you know that the team is going to go on a run and you need to make a run back,” said Medfield coach John Isaf about his team’s resiliency. “We just don’t quit and that’s what we’re finding out about ourselves -- we’re tough and we can punch back.”
Longmeadow head coach Ryan Liebel, who saw the Lancers 37-game winning streak come to an end and suffered just his first loss as coach, called the loss a “good learning experience” for his squad. He also recognized that there was a little edge to Medfield with thoughts of last year’s final still fresh in the memory.
He said, “They might have had a little bit more of a taste in their mouth from last year and they may have gotten the best of us. They wanted it. They were prepared and, as soon as we got here, we could see that in their eyes.”
Liebel added, “We had chances but we didn’t put them away and overall they played better; they played tougher.”
It was the Lancers that jumped out to a 6-4 halftime lead. Senior attacker Myles Smith scored two goals and sophomore Max Stukalin added two of his game-high four goals in the opening two quarters.
Jack Isaf scored twice for the Warriors in the opening half but it would be several second half adjustments that would pay huge dividends for Medfield to create better attacking opportunities and outscore the Lancers 6-3 after the break.
“We did a little bit of an adjustment on the defensive midfield side to play further out on them and offensively we went to a different set,” John Isaf said. “It forced their slides to be a little bit longer and just got much better looks in the second half.”
He added, “We made an adjustment on defense, we made an adjustment on offense, and then we basically said that what it comes down to is they won the 50-50 balls in the first half and we need to win them in the second half.”
Matt Crowell got Medfield back within a goal inside the opening 30 seconds of the second half. Longmeadow answered back with a goal by Cam Kelleher, but sophomore Nigel Reiff matched it for the Warriors.
With 2:46 left in the third quarter, Stukalin got his hat trick and made it 8-6, but Medfield once again answered back with Kevin McCordic firing a shot under the bar and then Tyler Hagan scoring from in close with just 1.9 on the clock to tie the game heading to the final quarter.
Stukalin would once again give the Lancers the lead just 45 seconds into the fourth but little more than a minute later, Crowell picked the top corner to tie it at 9-9. The score would remain deadlocked until 2:04 left when Isaf stepped up with his game-winner.
“That’s one of our backside looks is we try to dodge on one side and get the ball on the back side,” said Coach Isaf of the play that led to his son’s goal. “He did a good job getting upfield and increasing his angle and putting the ball where the goalie couldn’t save it.”
Longmeadow had its chances to try and break the game open, but Liebel highlighted face-offs as a factor in Medfield’s ability to hang around. In a battle of two of the best face-off middies in the state, Brian Bissell out-dueled Drew Kelleher, 13-10.
“The face-off ‘X’ was huge. They controlled the ball; they controlled the tempo,” said Liebel, who also noted the play of Medfield goalie Robert Treiber, who made 15 saves in the win.
When asked what it meant to come back and take the lead right at the end, Trieber responded, “It’s just what my coach has been preaching all year. He said we’ve got to step up; next guy in and if something’s not going right just flush it and we’ll get back into it. We did a great job of not worrying about coming back and just playing our game like it’s 0-0.”
John Isaf added, “All tonight did was show that we can play and we’re not the team that you saw a week ago (in a loss to Catholic Memorial). But, like I said at the end -- we didn’t win anything and we still need to get better.”
“We can’t be satisfied with tonight, we need to get better for the last two weeks of the season.”