Wakefield meets Billerica in quarterfinals Friday

By DAN PAWLOWSKI

WAKEFIELD — Wakefield lacrosse has always been about the team first.

Tallies in stat sheets might get you in the paper, (and yes, we will be talking about Mason Brennan’s six goals against Malden Catholic yesterday), but the Warriors were locked in as a group on their way to a 14-6 win in the first round of the D2 North tournament. If they want to keep playing, they will have to maintain that mentality.

“Our message this week was ‘we’re going to try to stay focused and play as a team,’” said head coach Andrew Lavalle. “Mason Brennan had a huge game for us. He went off today, but it’s not just one guy going off. We talked about it right before the game, we really wanted to stay focused on being a team. When you aren’t concerned with the credit you will be amazed at how successful you can be. We were concerned with the W, we weren’t concerned with the stat sheet.”

MASON BRENNAN scored six goals for Wakefield during their first round win over Malden Catholic yesterday. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

Wakefield found themselves in a rematch with Malden Catholic who the Warriors defeated in the D2N quarterfinals in each of the last two seasons. The Warriors and Lancers also played each other earlier this season on April 19 which Wakefield won, 6-4.

Behind the support of the fans at Landrigan Field, Wakefield jumped all over the visitors and took a 5-0 lead in the first quarter before MC got on the board.

Alex Joly got the first one after a nice cut and pass from Tyler Drago. Wakefield added two more on back-to-back possessions, initially on Brennan’s first goal, a lefty rip off a feed from Bobby Keegan who then scored a goal of his own on a bouncer for a 3-0 lead. Brennan’s second was a beauty on a sharp angle from the right side that he somehow fit neatly into the top right corner to make it 4-0 with 6:05 left in the first quarter.

Another quick dodge and rip from Keegan gave Wakefield a 5-0 lead. The Lancers would keep themselves in it with back-to-back goals to end the frame.

Wakefield earned every inch on the offensive side to start the second quarter, and got to their spots as Joly had a great find to Brennan who buried his third of the game, 3:15 into the second quarter.

Malden Catholic once again fought back and made it 6-3 about two minutes later.

Just when some feared the Lancers would come back like they did earlier in the season, Wakefield put together a great possession to get the next one. The Warriors were prepared to take some time off the clock and after some great ball movement, Brennan recognized an open opportunity, took the space and finished strong once again to give the home team a 7-3 lead.

After MC got the next two, Drago burned a hole in the net on a quick shot to give Wakefield an 8-5 lead at halftime.

The second half was all Wakefield.

Brennan got the first one of the half to make it 9-5 and then the Warrior defense suffocated the Lancers for the rest of the game. Leading that defensive charge once again was senior captain Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was all over the field.

“Senior leadership was huge once again,” said Lavalle. “Ryan ‘Fitz’ was unstoppable on the face-off. It’s nice to be able to rely on guys like that to make plays and I think that really helps everybody else step up.”

One of those plays the coach recounted was on a rare face-off that Fitzpatrick didn’t win. After an illegal procedure was called on Wakefield, the ball sat ready to be picked up at midfield with Fitzpatrick standing over it, ready to haunt whoever had their number called. Finally, a discouraged Lancer scooped it up and made one move to get past the captain, who read it, stripped the ball and started the other way.

Defensive midfielder Thomas Harrington made a great play of his own when he weaved through a sea of Lancers from his own zone, got all the way to the front of the MC net and drew a penalty.

“Our unsung heroes are usually the D mids, Zach Brissette and Thomas Harrington,” said Lavalle. “As a coach, you’re really only as good as your D mids. ‘Harry’ and Zach do not get beat and they always make big time plays; they do a great job for us.”

Fitzpatrick added two goals in the second half, the first of which made it 11-5 with four minutes left in the third.

Robert Guida took advantage of a man up situation on a low, lefty laser that made it 12-5 as the 3rd quarter came to a close, with Wakefield in complete control.

Fitzpatrick and Joly got the final two goals of the 4th.

Wakefield will have two days to prepare for Lavalle’s hometown Billerica in the quarterfinals. Lavalle graduated from Billerica in 2002 and played for their current coach, Craig Flynn. Lavalle would later coach at Billerica under former Wakefield head coach Geno Busa.

The 2018 Billerica team is 15-5 as they got a bye and the No. 2 seed in the tournament. Wakefield travels to 10 Good Street on Friday at 5 p.m.

“Billerica is an awesome team. Individually they’re good, team-wise they’re good and they’re well-coached. We’re going to need a great game.”

If they practice like they did this past week, the Warriors can beat anybody.

“We really had a couple good days of practice, guys were really going hard and I think we noticed that once we start practicing like that it carries over to the game.”

“What we plant in practice, we’re going to harvest in the playoffs.”

As long as they harvest as a team, the Warriors can yield a huge win.