Focused Duxbury aces biggest test

BILLERICA, Mass. -- In a word, it was impressive.

The eyes of lacrosse fans across Massachusetts were firmly fixed on the Division 1 semifinal between Billerica and Duxbury on Saturday. Although the Indians and Dragons had the No. 2 and 3 seeds in the tournament, respectively, the teams were widely regarded as the top two teams in the state.

During the regular season, Billerica came closer than any other Massachusetts based team to knocking off Duxbury (the Dragons’ three losses all came to out-of-state foes). Still, the Dragons emerged with a 12-9 victory in the teams’ early April meeting.

But this one was different.

Duxbury had been on a roll, out-scoring Natick and Lexington — its first playoff victims — by a 29-4 margin. Those performances weren’t nearly as impressive as the Dragons’ 19-9 victory over the Indians.

“We’ve had that feeling in the last couple weeks in the way our team’s been practicing and playing,” Duxbury head coach Chris Sweet said. “As a coach, I can’t ask for anything more.”

Aside from Billerica’s quick strike to start the game, scoring off the opening faceoff for an instant 1-0 lead five seconds in, the game was the Dragons’ wire-to-wire.

From Henry Narlee’s work in the faceoff X, to Henry Buonagurio’s play in goal, to the defensive corps’ work behind Max Randall, to the offensive firepower displayed by Will Siefert and Paul Hellar, it couldn’t have been a more complete performance.

It was their day.

“They played great,” Billerica head coach Craig Flynn said of the Dragons. “They didn’t make many mistakes out there offensively or defensively.”

Siefert, who contributed four goals and two assists to the attack, said Duxbury made some adjustments following their first battle with Billerica (20-3). Primarily, they sought to change their transition offense, taking advantage of ground balls and moving the ball quickly up-field to create scoring opportunities.

For Siefert, it meant more than that. After recovering from a preseason knee injury, the April meeting was his return to the field. In the second go-round with the Indians, he left an indelible mark.

It was all done with one common purpose in mind. That was the Dragons’ stated goal to return to Harvard Stadium and gain redemption after last year’s heartbreaking overtime loss to St. John’s Prep.

Later in the day Saturday, Prep overtook Needham for the right to meet Duxbury in the D1 final yet again.

It was a new lease on life.

“We’re getting another shot at it,” Siefert said.

That doesn’t mean the Dragons will be treading lightly when they get their next crack at Prep on Tuesday.

“We’ve got one more to go,” Sweet said following the game. “We’re not going to sit back and relax at this point. Whoever we face next is going to be a tough one.”