Late comeback bid falls short against Tewksbury
By DAN BYRNE
WAKEFIELD — For just the second time this season, the first season under new head coach Andrew Lavalle, the Wakefield Memorial High School varsity boys’ lacrosse team tasted defeat on Tuesday at the hands of non-league opponent Tewksbury by a 14-13 final score at Landrigan Field.
The last time out the Warriors had no trouble dispatching Stoneham. This time, in a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal tournament game, the Warriors found themselves in a heated battle with an opponent on equal footing.
It was evident from the opening whistle that this game was not going to be a cakewalk for the Warriors with the two teams trading goals in the opening 12 minutes.
It was an action packed first quarter that saw the teams play hard all the way to the end. With just under a minute remaining Bryan Noyes gave the Warriors a 3-2 lead. However Tewksbury won the ensuing face-off and held possession the rest of the time.
With just 0.09 seconds on the clock, Tewksbury scored to tie the game at 3-3 heading into the second quarter.
The second quarter was not the Warriors’ best performance and the scoreboard reflected that. Tewksbury won the opening face-off and controlled possession for the first minute and a half before finding the goal that put it ahead 4-3.
Wakefield (6-2) came right back and, in less than a minute, Brandon Grinnell fed Vin Ferretti who notched one past the goalie to tie the game at 4-4.
A minute and a half later, MJ Urbano put the Warriors on top 5-4 with a laser of a shot.
From that point Wakefield struggled to win and maintain possession. Tewksbury’s center obtained control of the ball for his team time and time again.
This run of possession led to four unanswered Redmen goals to end the half. Tewksbury held an 8-5 lead over the Warriors on their home turf.
Grinnell scored three minutes into the third quarter to cut the Tewksbury lead to 8-6 but the visitors scored two goals over the next three minutes to stretch the lead to four goals at 10-6.
Down four goals in the second half, Wakefield needed to turn the momentum around.
With half of the third quarter to play, Urbano scored again to cut the lead to 10-7.
Tewksbury won the following face-off and, for the next minute, it attacked the Wakefield goal.
However the defense held strong and an errant shot by Tewksbury was snagged by goalie Alex Flynn to regain possession for the Warriors.
Flynn wasted no time going from defense to offense as his clearance pass sent the ball to midfield where a streaking Austin Collard made a fine play to control the outlet pass.
Quickly Collard got the ball up to Grinnell who carried the ball into the teeth of the defense. Wakefield’s shifty little junior made a few defenders miss with knifing jukes before finishing a highlight reel goal behind his head that left the Tewksbury goalie no chance to save the shot, cutting the lead down to 10-8.
Just over a minute later, the Warriors got another defensive stop and counterattacked at the other end.
Once again Grinnell brought the ball in but when everyone was looking for him to shoot, he fed an open Pat Leary who slotted a shot by the goalie cutting Tewksbury’s lead to 10-9.
The flurry to end the third quarter meant the lead was just one goal with 12 minutes left.
Tewksbury played more aggressively to start the final quarter and its aggression led to the opening two goals of the quarter in the first five minutes to re-establish a three goal lead at 12-9.
The two goals by the visitors seemed to take some wind out of the sails for the Warriors but with 5:30 to play Urbano came through again with a timely goal to cut the lead to just two.
Just a couple of minutes later, Tewksbury scored to cancel out Urbano’s goal. Then the Redmen won the following face-off and marched right down and scored again.
With just under two and a half minutes left Tewksbury had run the lead out to 14-10.
Now it was desperation time for the Warriors.
Center James McAuliffe came through in the clutch to win the face-off. Then with the Warriors in possession but struggling to find space to shoot, McAuliffe came up big with the goal to cut the lead to 14-11 with just over two minutes remaining.
McAuliffe won the face-off again and found Grinnell who scored in under 30 seconds to cut the lead to 14-12 and give the Warriors all the momentum.
Another face-off win for McAuliffe led to another chance to score for the Warriors. McAuliffe got the ball up to Urbano, who found Grinnell, who then fed a cutting Ferretti who let a shot fly from nearly point blank range.
A goal would have cut the lead to one but the Tewksbury keeper made an incredible, improbable save to maintain a two goal lead.
The goalie got the ball to a defenseman but the Tewksbury coach called for timeout with under a minute left.
After the timeout, the defender had a chance to clear but Wakefield defenseman Steve Marino was in his face putting pressure on him.
Marino, along with his teammates swarmed the Tewksbury defender, causing him to cough the ball up just a few yards from his goal.
Marino swooped in and scooped up the ball, easily beating the Tewksbury goalie in a one-on-one situation to cut the lead to 14-13, but only 18 seconds remained.
McAuliffe was in a battle for the next face-off when Wakefield was awarded possession after Tewksbury was called for an infringement.
A timeout by Coach Lavalle set up the final play for Urbano to have a last second heave. He teed up a shot that sailed just over the crossbar, landing harmlessly behind the goal as time expired leaving Wakefield on the short end of a 14-13 final score.
After the game Coach Lavalle spoke about what he saw out there.
“The thing is we have a lot of mental toughness and we come back,” the coach said of his team falling behind but not giving up.
The coach felt his team could have done more saying, “You can’t beat a great team by playing good, you have to beat a great team by playing great and that was the problem. We played OK.”
The aspect of the game Wakefield normally dominates but did not against Tewksbury was on face-offs.
“Face-offs were the key to the game,” Lavalle said. “They had a guy, number nine, winning all the face-offs. That was big time for them. It all starts at the face-off X and they had a really good face-off guy. We had a tough time matching up. We’re not used to guys beating JMac and winning the face-offs cleanly. It’s something we need to practice a little more.”
Despite the loss, Lavalle saw plenty of bright spots to be proud of as he mentioned, “Offensively, I thought we did a pretty good job on the offensive side. They gave us a bunch of different looks and we were able to analyze and attack those looks.”
In the end, Lavalle knew the Warriors had to be on the attack more than they were.
“We just didn’t have the ball enough,” he said. “We played too much defense. When you play that much defense they’re going to start scoring goals. You can’t play defense the whole time and expect to win.”
What he is really looking for as a coach is for his team to play a complete game.
“We can’t show up for two quarters,” Lavalle said. “Our third and fourth quarters were great. The thing was our first and second quarters weren’t there. We just have to be able to play a complete game. We played a half, that’s the toughest part about it.”
It wasn’t the normal jovial sideline after a win and Lavalle’s players seemed to be left with a bit of a bad taste in their mouths after this game.
“I think they’re taking a little bit of solace in the fact that we’re going to see these guys again in the playoffs,” said the coach about how his team was taking the defeat. “We’ll get a second chance and we know that we can play better. I think they’re all pretty excited to show them that we can play a four quarter game, that’s what it comes down to.”
A quick look ahead shows the next outing for the Warriors coming on Saturday morning as they host Shawsheen Tech at 10 a.m. at Landrigan Field.
As always, Coach Lavalle is excited to get back out there.
“Shawsheen will be a good time to start tightening up the screws and being ready to go.”