Senior players lead the way in regular season home finale
By DAN BYRNE
WAKEFIELD — The varsity boys’ lacrosse team at Wakefield Memorial High School is putting together one of the best seasons ever in head coach Andrew Lavalle’s first year at the helm.
However, the truth is that the players on the team were made great lacrosse players long before this year. This is their time to shine and they have never shined brighter than they did last night under the lights at Landrigan Field as they took on heated rival Melrose in their final home regular season game.
The team continued to impress as it took command early and pulled out the victory by an 11-5 final score and move to 12-2 on the year with four games remaining.
Being the final home game, the start time was pushed back and the evening was billed as Senior Night. There was no pregame ceremony, though senior Adam Tarpey performed the National Anthem for the crowd.
“The name of the game was Senior Night and the key to the game was a lot of senior leadership,” Coach Lavalle said after the game as he spoke about some of his senior leaders. “Vin Ferretti was a guy that was going hard the whole time. He’s an emotional leader on our team. JMac (James McAuliffie) on the face-off, he’s playing a great game. He’s a senior leader, we step on his back.”
The next guy he talked about doesn’t get much glory defending the net but his determination and intensity make him one effective player.
“There’s nobody that plays harder than Dylan Brady and there is nobody on our team that people respect more,” said Coach Lavalle. “He [Brady] played awesome. He ate up their #4 today. That was awesome. Dylan just manhandled him.”
Next he mentioned his goalie, “What can’t we say about (Alex) Flynn. He’s a guy who just makes a lot of point blank saves, once again tonight it could have been a completely different game without Flynn making those saves.”
Lavalle pointed out another player that is an effective and valuable team member.
“Bryan Noyes #14,” he said. “He’s a guy that a lot of guys respect and go to. He’s one of the guys I can go to for information about what is going on out on the field at any time. He’s a field general, he knows where people are supposed to be. He knows exactly what the other team is doing and he comes back and relays that to the other guys. He’s a pretty good teacher as well when it comes to that.
“MJ Urbano is a guy who can just grip and rip. He’s the fastest kid on the planet so you know if he gets it he’s going to the cage every time,” added Lavalle.
In the first quarter, Melrose took the opening face-off but failed to score in the first minute it had the ball.
Wakefield goalie Flynn ended up with the ball at the end of Melrose’s possession and started the offensive movement for the Warriors.
The Warriors didn’t waste any time as Brandon Grinnell got the scoring started at 10:54 in the first.
Center McAuliffe won the ensuing face-off for Wakefield and began a lengthy spell of possession of the Warriors.
Wakefield held the ball for a majority of the first quarter minutes but Melrose’s defense held firm after being breached early. That is, until the 3:00 mark when Grinnell popped up again and slotted one into the back of the net to make it 2-0.
Melrose won the next face-off and marched down and, within one minute, had beaten the defense and cut the lead in half. Flynn did all he could to handle the waves of Melrose attackers but after three or four shots they finally got one by him.
At 2-1 the second quarter began and again Melrose controlled the opening face-off.
However, the Wakefield defense was not about to let the Red Raiders back into the game. Melrose had the ball but the “D” was so tight it couldn’t move and just had to pass the ball.
After about 30 seconds of Melrose struggling with possession it missed on a pass and the ball rolled into the Wakefield half.
There, Ferretti scooped up the ground ball and without hesitation turned and made for the goal. He slipped past one defender about 25 yards from the net and was one on one with the goalie. With cool precision Wakefield’s #15 deposited a shot into the net to make it 3-1 Warriors.
At 10:21 Wakefield went down a man for 30 seconds for a push but was able to kill off the time without conceding a goal.
With 7:12 to play Melrose lost a player to the penalty box giving Wakefield a man advantage. Its experienced leaders on the field didn’t let the opportunity go to waste and, 12 seconds into the penalty, Urbano found a cutting Grinnell who did the scoring for the third time to make it 4-1 Warriors.
Five minutes went by after the Grinnell goal and each team had chances to put a goal on the board but it wasn’t until the 1:56 mark that Melrose got its second by Flynn making it a 4-2 game.
Wakefield responded right away as McAuliffe won the ensuing face-off and got the goal back for the Warriors in under a minute.
At halftime the Warriors led 5-2.
Wakefield came out in the third quarter and looked the dominant team for the opening three and a half minutes but the Warriors failed to score as the Melrose goalie made save after save.
Once Melrose got the ball, it caught the defense a little bit flat footed and the Red Raiders scored quickly to make it 5-3 with just under eight minutes to go in the third.
Again Wakefield didn’t wait long to get the goal back, as McAuliffe won the face-off and the ball made its way to Urbano around the midfield area. Urbano raced into the Melrose end and took on two defenders, dispatching them with a nimble spin move and scorching the net with a quick shot by the goalie.
Wakefield controlled the ensuing face-off one more time and used everyone on the offensive side of the ball in the possession.
After a lengthy spell of passing and moving, the Warriors displayed good patience to not just shoot at an inopportune time. Eventually a lane opened up while Austin Collard attacked the net and he scored to make it 7-3 Wakefield.
Around the three and a half minute mark the Warriors were defending when Flynn denied Melrose a goal that might have changed things. Instead the resulting rebound caused a scrum that saw two Red Raiders commit penalties giving the Warriors a two-man advantage.
The offense didn’t waste this golden opportunity to score again and, with two fewer players, Urbano’s cannon almost put a hole in the net.
At 8-3 Wakefield was feeling pretty good looking toward the fourth quarter but with two minutes to go Melrose scored again to bring the lead to just four.
However, just as the momentum looked to be shifting in Melrose’s favor heading into the last quarter, Grinnell got his fourth goal of the game and really took the air out of the Red Raiders’ sails.
At the end of three Wakefield held a 9-4 lead. With the finish line in sight, the Warriors looked to close it out and cement the win.
Wakefield took the opening face-off and once again displayed patience and intelligence in their pursuit of finding a quality shot. With just over a minute played, Collard was the man on point again for the Warriors, extending the lead to 10-4.
Less than two minutes later, Collard scored again, and at 11-4 Wakefield just had to see out the final eight minutes.
“He had a couple really big goals for us,” Lavalle said of Collard’s contribution after the game.
Melrose came back and put the pressure on the defense and on Flynn in net but he was as impressive as always and stymied the Red Raiders’ attack time and time again.
“This is a fourth quarter team,” Lavalle said, “Melrose is a fourth quarter team and they’re a team that can get in it, they have athletes. A lot of the guys on their team provide a lot of hard match-ups, very hard guys to cover.”
In front of Flynn, Steve Marino and Dylan Brady led the defensive line for the Warriors.
Melrose managed to score with just over two minutes to play and, after the goal kept the heat on. But Brady, Marino, and Flynn wouldn’t let up another goal as the Warriors rode out the 11-5 victory over Melrose.
“It came down to key defensive stops, winning face-offs, then being patient on the offensive side,” Coach Lavalle said following his 12th win. “It was a game that we were patient, we didn’t give up the ball then we ended with a goal. That was the key really to this game patience on the defensive side and offensive side, then JMac winning those face-offs doesn’t hurt.”
With one league game left to play (Wakefield still has three non-leagues scheduled next week), the Warriors’ fate is in their own hands. A win tonight against Burlington and they’ll be the Middlesex League Freedom Division champion.
“Good teams prepare,” Lavalle said, “We’re prepared, we’re confident and we’re ready to go tomorrow.”
Tonight’s game will be played at Burlington High at 6:30 p.m. at Varsity Field.