BEVERLY — It's school vacation week on the North Shore, and relaxation must have been on the minds of the members of the St. John's Prep lacrosse team, which opened the first quarter of yesterday's road game against Beverly as if it could sleepwalk its way to a win.
An early four-goal deficit seemed to stir the nest enough to rouse the Eagles though, and coach John Roy's boys pulled out the come-from-behind 12-9 win over the Panthers.
"It's vacation week, and we had a tough game against Xaverian Saturday and didn't practice (Sunday), so the coaching staff was nervous we wouldn't get off the bus (ready to play)," explained Roy, whose Eagles improved to 4-1 on the season. "It was true, our minds were not really into it and that got us down early."
Brendan Flaherty put Beverly (4-2) on the board early after driving from the top of the box and goals from Brenden Mitchell, Dom Abate, Flaherty again and Shipp had the Panthers ahead 5-1 after the first quarter. But fantastic faceoff work by the Prep, led by efforts from the guys taking the draw (Derek Osbahr and Anthony Merullo), as well as the guys on the wing (Brian Pinho, Chris Casey and Eamonn O'Leary), helped the Eagles battle back.
"Our first quarter has been our best all year. This team has a very good mental focus coming out, they do a great job warming up and the kids were on point today. Focused and ready to go," said Beverly head coach John Pynchon. "They (St. John's Prep) are a good team, a really good team. We did our best to keep going, we just kind of ran out of steam there."
St. John's won 4-of-5 draws in the second quarter allowing Drew O'Connell, Mike Harris and Sam Frick to score a goal each to get the Prep back into the game. With a Ryan Shipp marker for Beverly, the Eagles were down by just a pair of goals at the half.
"The guys at X (Osbahr and Merullo) really work their tails off," said Roy, whose team went 2-for-3 on man-up opportunities in the first half. "And the wings really do a good job. A lot of it is about heart, going for those ground balls, and it's key to be able to possess the ball."
Two goals from Harris and another from O'Connell had the Prep even with Beverly at 7-7 headed to the fourth quarter, but Flaherty found nylon again and Beverly reclaimed the lead. But an unlikely source in Casey, a long pole middie, got the momentum back for the Eagles when he scooped up a ground ball off the ensuing faceoff and took it directly toward the Beverly goal, beating keeper Jimmy Chase with a hard, low shot. The Eagles scored four of the next five goals to gain a big road win in a game that's come to mean a lot to people on both sides, Roy in particular.
"This is one of our oldest rivals, it goes back to when I was at St. John's, so it's really great to have this rivalry," said Roy, who also spoke about the difference of this year's Panthers as opposed to those he's faced in previous years. "Beverly was excellent. In past years, this game hasn't been as close (as it was today). They're well-coached, they move ball well, they have some speed and some good shooters."
Shipp (three goals, one assist), Flaherty (three goals, one assist) and Abate (goal) give Beverly more than enough ammunition offensively, and yesterday, the Panthers showed they can score in bunches. However, St. John's Prep long poles Brian Uva, Lucas Bavaro and Tucker Mathers proved up to the challenge, coming up with big stick checks and strong clears over the final three quarters.
On the offensive end for the Eagles, it's Harris who stands out, and not because of his height. A sophomore, Harris led SJP with five goals, while Drew O'Connell (four goals) and Sam Frick (two goals) showed they can come up with offense when the team is in need.
If it weren't for Beverly keeper Jimmy Chase and his 16 saves, the game wouldn't have been as close as it was. Chase has shined early in the season for Pynchon's Panthers.
"As a team, they (St. John's Prep) are the best natural shooters we are going to see. Every goal they beat Jimmy on was an excellent shot," Pynchon said. "He made some great saves and has been playing really well for us."