Best showing ever against Winchester in 6-5 season opener loss
By JENNIFER GENTILE
MELROSE — The Melrose Red Raider lacrosse team put a little scare into the Winchester Sachem lacrosse team when they hosted them on Thursday, April 2 at Fred Green Field. The result was a nail biter, a 6-5 loss for Melrose that amounts to their best effort against an elite squad Melrose has never beaten.
“Winchester pretty much put lacrosse on the map in Massachusetts,” says Melrose head coach Matt James. “And for us to scare them and nearly upset them, I think it says a lot about the state of our program.”
Melrose is coming off their best season to date in 2014 when they captured the Middlesex Freedom League and went two rounds in playoffs.
On Thursday the Red Raiders never trailed by more than one goal against the Sachems and they saw a wide variety of scoring from Melrose sophomore Corbin White (2), Ryan McDermott (1), Mike Pedrini (1) and Jack Seibert.
“It was definitely a game we could have won,” says James. “Another goal or two from or top scorers would have made the difference.”
According to the coach the Raiders made some adjustments in the second half that turned things around. “We did a lot of things well then. Zac [Mercer] was huge with ground balls and overall we made about 25 out of 30 of the ground balls and that helped keep us right in it.”
Winchester goalie Jack McGowan had 18 saves for the Sachems and that proved hard to top. “Unfortunately their goalie just had an outstanding game,” says James. “But Connor Locke did incredible at the net for us in his first varsity start. He kept us in the game and had no turnovers.”
Melrose will see stiff competition in the coming days with large school rivals such as Belmont, Reading and Arlington on the horizon. But these are teams that Melrose can and have beaten despite their advantage in numbers and program longevity.
“One advantage we have is that our players are just tough and in great shape. They’re in the gym every day before practice. We wear teams down and our guys never tire out,” says their coach.
Feeder programs, like Melrose youth lacrosse are producing top underclassmen who display specialty skills thanks to an emphasis on defense. “This season it’s about defense. Even in our youth leagues we are producing teams to be defense minded, to win those ground balls and be aggressive enough to maintain possession. I think this is a reflection of our second half effort against Winchester, who are a pretty elite team.”
Melrose next game is Belmont on Wednesday (post deadline) and Arlington on Friday at 3:45 p.m. at Fred Green Field.