Published in the May 18, 2016 edition


LYNNFIELD — The boys’ lacrosse team is headed back to the Division 3 North state tournament.

The Pioneers (8-3) earned their biggest win of the 2016 season on May 10, when the locals cruised past undefeated Ipswich 8-3. The victory enabled the locals to qualify for the Division 3 North state tournament for the second straight year.

“We were a bit frustrated with our loss to Hamilton-Wenham and still remembered our 6-5 Division 3 North semifinal loss to Ipswich last year,” said Pioneers head coach Joe Papagni. “We really stepped up and played our best lacrosse of the season. It took a total team effort and we gave a total team effort.”

The Pioneers’ game against the Tigers was a defensive battle right from the opening faceoff. Ipswich is averaging over 12 goals per game and Lynnfield’s defense, which Papagni called an “iron curtain,” helped curtail the Tigers’ attack. Papagni said the locals received strong defensive performances from senior captains Jack Ganter, Trevor Caswell and Max Robert as well as seniors Ricky Johnson and Anthony Coletta.

Sophomore Nick Kinnon gave the Pioneers a 1-0 lead after finding the back of the net 10 minutes into the first quarter.

Ipswich regrouped and tied the game at one in the beginning of the second quarter. Undaunted, the defensive pressure applied by Johnson, Caswell, senior Greg Miles, senior Brendan Rothwell and sophomore Tyler Murphy frustrated Ipswich’s offense.

Senior Matt Miller gave the Pioneers a 2-1 lead with two minutes remaining before halftime, assisted by senior captain Pat Garrity.

“Getting that lead to end the half was a big break for us and the locker room was rocking at halftime,” said Papagni. “The coaches could just tell that the second half was going to be fun. I love the feel of a locker room at halftime when it just explodes with emotion. I had a feeling good things were about to happen.”

Senior CJ Finn recovered a ground ball and scored a goal after nailing a shot past the Tigers’ goal. Kinnon scored his second goal a short time later, giving Lynnfield a 4-1 lead.

The Tigers scored two goals down the stretch of the third quarter, cutting Lynnfield’s lead to 4-3 at the end of the third.

The fourth quarter belonged to the Pioneers. Kinnon scored his third goal of the game, while Garrity and Rothwell also scored. Rothwell scored his goal after Papagni said he went “coast to coast.”

Ganter tallied 15 saves in net, five of which Papagni said “were just spectacular.”

In addition to the locals’ excellent defensive performance, Papagni attributed the Pioneers’ upset victory over Ipswich to a new offense.

“We tried to put the ball in our best dodgers’ hands and implement an offense that would allow us to possess the ball more than in the past few games,” said Papagni. “It seemed to give us some added confidence and we were able to put more pressure on the Ipswich defense.”

Loss to Triton

The Pioneers fell 4-3 to Triton May 13.

Garrity led the Pioneers with two goals. Rothwell scored one goal. Senior Alex Soden had an assist.

Ganter tallied 19 saves in net.

“Something about playing on the grass just has an effect on us,” said Papagni. “Defensively, we played well enough to win but our offense sputtered a bit. We managed 28 shots, but only three hit home for goals. Triton is a good team but I thought we could have won the game with a few breaks. The Vikings are also averaging over 12 goals a game and once again the Pioneer defense played good enough to win.”

Papagni commended Rothwell’s performance against Triton.

“Brendan continues to improve offensively,” said Papagni.

Upcoming games

The Pioneers faced Manchester-Essex on Monday, taking place after deadline. Lynnfield hosts Wilmington on Wednesday, May 18, beginning at 4 p.m. The locals host Bedford on Saturday, May 21, beginning at 7 p.m.