Published in the July 13, 2017 edition.
By Dan Byrne
WAKEFIELD — When the 2017 season began, the Wakefield Memorial High School boys’ varsity lacrosse team had some promising ambitions and some unfinished business. Last year’s squad made it all the way to the D.2 North Semi-Finals before falling in double OT.
This year’s squad exceeded the accomplishments of all previous WMHS boy lax teams, going 20-0 before losing a shocker at the hands of Beverly in the D.2 North Finals.
Still, there was much to celebrate for the Warriors as they enjoyed the most successful season in school history.
For head coach Andrew Lavalle, his third season at the helm was historic. He was presented with the Bruce Lerch Coach of the Year award for the accomplishments of his team this season.
An undefeated regular season and 20 wins is remarkable in any sport, and it was a first for the Warriors lacrosse program. Coach Lavalle had said all along that the feel around this team was something he’d never been a part of before.
He reiterated that sentiment in a recent interview saying, “I’ve never been part of a program that had such a family feel. These guys have been playing together forever and you could tell I was just happy I could be part of it. We have had a great culture for the last 6 years and this season it all came together.”
“We had such tremendous support from players’ families as well as Mr. Kent (WMHS A.D.).” Lavalle continued, “I think that the family atmosphere was a huge part of our success.”
That success led to the Warriors being ranked number one, or near the top of the rankings most of the season, and number six at the conclusion of the season.
Coach Lavalle knew early on that this was going to be a special season and he cited an April 22 contest against Acton-Boxborough as one of the season’s defining moments.
“Maybe one of our biggest wins was vs. AB,” Lavalle said, “I didn’t know what we were in store for, a D1 power house, but when we got that win I knew we were rolling.”
Wakefield avenged their North Finals loss with a win over Winchester, and they were able to knock off their closest rival, Melrose, in a pair of one goal nail-biters.
“Winchester is always a battle,” Lavalle said, “It was nice to play hard and come out with that one. Both Melrose games were huge wins for us as well.”
With such great team success, it would be a huge error to omit the contributions of the members of the team, and this year’s squad had some historic performances.
Austin Collard was named Middlesex League MVP with 89 goals and 31 assists on the season. The senior led the team in scoring and was the most threatening player on the field each time he stepped out. He finished his high school career with 193 goals and 83 assists. He has plans to play at Manhattan College next year.
It wasn’t all Collard, as no team is just one player, and Lavalle made sure to highlight that point saying,“The seniors were huge for us, most teams ask juniors to carry the burden at the end of the season because there are so many distractions for seniors.”
For their efforts, midfielder PJ Iannuzzi, defenseman Ryan Fitzpatrick, goalie Ryan Chambers, and attackmen Pat Leary and Anthony Forziati all received All-Middlesex League honors.
The coach continued to highlight his players saying, “We never had a problem with seniors losing focus. Brady Langlois was the first person at practice every day. He was often the first one dressed and on the field. He used to say he ‘wanted more reps’. I would love our younger guys to have that level of focus and love for the game.”
Lavalle likes to make sure that players who are in roles that most people might not notice get the recognition they deserve. One player he highlighted was Dylan Frank, as he said, “There was one unsung hero that really sticks out to me, Dylan Frank.”
“He played the most underrated position on the field, short stick D mid. It’s all guts no glory.”
“He was the key factor in most of our match ups, and the reason we beat Melrose in the regular season a huge stop with 13 seconds left.”
Ultimately, the 2017 Warriors fell in the D.2 North Finals to Beverly by a 7-6 score. It was the farthest a Wakefield Memorial High School boys’ lacrosse team has ever gone, and 20 wins is a new school record.
For the players that Lavalle expects to be back next season, hopes are high once again.
“Next year we are excited to see how we will do. We lost some key players on the O side, but it’s our D side that is looking stronger than ever. Teams will have a hard time dodging against us.”