DOVER, Mass. - Medfield coach John Isaf would not reveal exactly what he said to the Warriors at halftime, but whatever it was lit a fire under his players.
After a sluggish opening 24 minutes that saw the Warriors trail for the first time this season, Medfield outscored Tri-Valley League rival Dover-Sherborn 5-2 in the second half to come away with a 9-7 victory on Wednesday night at Searle Field that gives them the upper hand in the league title race.
“It was more about playing the way that we’re supposed to play and playing Medfield lacrosse,” said Isaf about his second half changes. “I think our guys played a little bit looser and a little bit tougher for us then we did in the first.”
Medfield (6-0) shifted its offensive sets and it paid early dividends in the second half when sophomore Nigel Reiff collected a loose ball behind the net and came around to score and tie the game at 5-5. Three minutes later, senior pole Jimmy Ganem raced forward out of defense and caught D-S in transition. He picked out sophomore Matt Treiber who finished and gave Medfield its first lead of the game.
With 1:10 left in the third, another sophomore, BU-commit John MacLean, stepped with his second goal of the game to make it 7-5. D-S (4-2) would cut the lead to one goal early in the fourth on a laser from freshman Bailey Laidman, but on the ensuing face-off an unlikely hero emerged for the Warriors.
Jack-Henry Vara, who had just been pulled up from the J.V. after the top two face-off men went down with injuries, won the faceoff (he won 14 of 18 in the game) and took the ball the length of the field before bouncing one past the stick of D-S goalie Jack Fontaine.
"Any time that you can make a play like that, especially when they’re not expecting it -- that’s a great play," Isaf said. "Jack-Henry has been patient; he’s been working down at the JV level…we gave him the opportunity and he did a great job. We’re fortunate to have that kind of depth.”
D-S was not without its opportunities in the second half, but Medfield goalie Robert Treiber made several huge stops to keep out the Raiders.
“I think he’s one of the best goalies in the state,” said Isaf. “When he’s one and making stops…that might be the difference in a one- or two-goal game.”
Another change that worked well for Medfield was the move of long-stick midfielder Blake Frasca back into close defense to work against D-S senior attack Grant Gregory, who was making his first appearance after being out with an injury. Gregory scored two and caused havoc in the first half, but was limited to just two shots in the second and did not get his hat trick until the final 10 seconds of the game.
“I didn’t think we shot particularly well in the second half,” said D-S coach Brian McLaughlin about the turnaround in play after the break.
He added, “I thought the defense still played strong, but I thought they made the shots that they had to and I thought that we missed on a few that we could’ve had shots on. Their goalie made some great saves…but I thought, you know, we could have shot and finished a little better.”
The combination of Gregory (three goals), who has committed to play at BU, and Laidman (two goals), who has already committed to play at the University of North Carolina, was a positive that McLaughlin thinks the Raiders can build on.
“It’s the first time that [Grant] and Bailey have stepped on the field together, so we have a lot of growing to do as a team,” McLaughlin said. “We really haven’t had everybody together, so in that sense it’s a positive. We played a lot better than we did on Friday and a lot better than we have in the past couple of weeks.”
After having a relatively comfortable start to the season with several routine TVL wins, Isaf was happy to see that his team could step up when it was challenged.
He said, “What I think it said about us is, I think, we’re tough. Things weren’t going our way in the first half, it was the first time that we’ve been down in a game, and the kids responded. That’s what you hope to see from a team.”
Medfield has a quick turnaround to host Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.) on Thursday night. D-S will be back in action next week in the annual Coaches Challenge Cup.