Jennings shrugs injury, leads Wellesley

WELLESLEY, Mass. -- Wellesley’s Charlie Jennings played with an injury Tuesday in his team’s 17-10 victory over No. 6 Needham, but you would never have guessed after he deposited seven goals to keep his team undefeated at 8-0.

“He’s been playing attack the last few days for us because he can’t run,” said Wellesley coach Rocky Batty. “He got hit in the calf by a ball in practice, and his calf is almost three times bigger than it was. He can’t run so we asked him to play attack and try to draw attention, which he did, and in spite of it, put up seven goals against a great team.”

The first quarter was the way you would expect an opening frame to be between the No. 2 and No. 6 teams in the state: back-and-forth with lots of scoring. Needham’s Mark Riley had two goals in the first quarter, which helped propel his team to a 6-4 lead going into the second. The two teams traded goals for much of the quarter, not allowing each other to pull away on the scoreboard.

In the second, Wellesley’s long offensive possessions and suffocating defense kept Needham (6-2) off the board. Jennings’ first two goals were part of a four-goal quarter that allowed it to pull ahead 8-6 at the half.

“I think seven goals is the most I’ve ever scored in a game,” said Jennings. “I think I had four one time my sophomore year against Mansfield a long time ago, so it’s been a while. I’ve been pretty low in scoring the past few games, so it was good to put a couple in and help us out.”

It was more of the same after halftime as Wellesley outscored its opponent 6-2 in the third quarter, including three goals from Jennings. Needham had a difficult time mounting a consistent offense, and when it did score, usually found itself quickly back in its defensive zone.

“We talk a lot in practice about pushing it in transition, our long stick midfielder Ryan Cassidy does a great job of that,” said Jennings. “It starts from the defense and we force it a lot and we have been pushing a lot and finding trailers and we’ve been doing a good job of that.”

Sam Lawrence also added four goals for Wellesley. Riley was the leading scorer for Needham with three goals.

After the game, Needham coach David Wainwright was quick to praise Wellesley’s effectiveness in outworking his team and making things difficult for them.

“They worked for the things that our guys weren’t willing to work for, they found balls, and won the communication game,” he said. “We fell back a couple steps and lost confidence. They smelled blood and they went for it, and that’s what happens.

“They finished and we could never recover defensively and because we lost some key possessions and key face-offs at the start of the second half, they were all over us. They were the better team, end of story. They wanted it more, they capitalized on our mistakes more, we fell asleep in moments that were key for us to gain momentum, and that was it.”