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.
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.