---- — The Beverly and Marblehead boys lacrosse teams that will be playing at the end of the spring will, in all likelihood, look quite a bit different than the ones that square off today.
That doesn’t mean this early-season Northeastern Conference showdown lacks intrigue.
The way it is these days, every Beverly-Marblehead lacrosse contest carries long-term importance and seems to add to what is becoming one of the best rivalries on the North Shore.
“They always have a good team and they’re always ready to play,” Marblehead (2-2) coach John Wilkens said. “You really gotta get up for it; everybody circles it on the schedule.”
Marblehead and Beverly split their meetings last year and shared the NEC crown.
This game obviously has league championship implications — even if that title won’t be decided for another month or so — and Beverly and Marblehead have become two of the best teams in all of Division 2 North.
“It’s early season and there’s a little less game planning and scheming, at least from our end. We control what we can control and want to play our best possible game,” Beverly (3-1) coach John Pynchon said. “I’m excited about it. This is a huge game not only for the NEC but also for seeding and us and Marblehead are kind of at the top of that group with Winchester. There are a lot of implications beyond the NEC.”
Marblehead and Beverly have played a combined eight games and they’re both still finding their way.
The Magicians have been playing without junior midfielder Brooks Tyrrell, who has already committed to Notre Dame.
Beverly, meanwhile, has had a few players in and out of its own lineup, in particular junior defender Brian Flaherty and sophomore midfielder Jordan Rawding.
Whether he’s healthy or not, Pynchon is preparing for Tyrrell to be in the lineup.
“I think they’re a very different team when he does play. He can make a pretty serious impact,” Pynchon said. “Unless he’s really hurt I think he’s going to play. He’s a big competitor and I’m sure we’ll see him.”
Both coaches agree to some degree that the focus on this first meeting is more about their own respective team than the opponent.
“I think every coach is not necessarily unhappy with their team, but always looking for improvement,” Wilkens said. “With us, we’re constantly trying to continue to get in better shape. It’s stick work, stick work, stick work. Fundamentals, that’s where it starts and any game usually comes down to the basics. That’s what we’re always stressing.
“What we’re thinking now is that we’re two out of two in the conference and the next four are all conference games. We were able to have a little success in the conference last year and we want to continue that. We’re kind of in conference mode for the next two weeks.”
Wilkens has been pleased with the play of Ben Anderson at the faceoff X, as well as Dean Fader up front. Defenders Liam Gillis, Crandall Maxwell and Tommy Gabel have played well, and Nathan Maselek continues to shine in goal.
For Beverly, sophomore Sam Traicoff has been a pleasant surprise on defense and senior Zach Duguid has done well on faceoffs.
Both of these teams are only in the early stages of their growth, but the stakes always seem to be higher when they’re on the field together.
Overall, the series may favor Beverly, but the gap has closed considerably over the past few years.
The two teams split last year and in 2009 and they’ve had one-goal games in each of the last three years.
“The team that plays the better game with fewer mistakes will win,” Pynchon said. “Then we’ll look toward that second game. That game is really the one where both teams will be firing on all cylinders. Marblehead was on a roll last year and they shut us down. The great thing about it is we play them, then it’s the home stretch and the playoffs. It’s a great little rivalry.”
The Salem girls are off to a fantastic start so far. The Witches already own wins over Greater Lowell, Swampscott, Revere and Winthrop, and Salem pulled away in three of those victories (Greater Lowell, Revere, Winthrop).
Salem coach Jessica Trioli is pleased with the team’s fast start and the improvement.
Alexa Gilbert has played very well so far, accumulating 13 goals and seven assists and she’s averaging eight loose ball recoveries per game. Emily Coehlo is another solid scoring threat for the Witches. She’s produced 12 goals and four assists to date.
Defensively, Salem has been strong too, having allowed only 13 goals through the first four games. Seniors Brenna Burke and Shayna Hall and junior Gabrielle Rocheville have stood out so far.
“They are a smart defense that has been playing together for a few years and it shows when the other team has a hard time getting shots off on net,” Trioli said.
Even when shots do reach the Salem cage, Witches’ goalie Abigail Meadowcroft has stood strong. Meadowcroft even posted a shutout against Revere.
The Peabody boys lacrosse team has a bit of a different look this year without the high-powered offense the Tanners were used to while Keifer Heckman was positioned up front.
Heckman graduated from Peabody as the program’s all-time leading scorer and headed to Southern New Hampshire University with his step brother Nick Ouellette, another high scoring attackman for Peabody last year.
While the Tanners may not still have the high-scoring, big name player they had in Heckman, Peabody does have an excellent, under-the-radar type standout in junior midfielder Reed Foster.
Foster probably will not lead the state in scoring, like Heckman did last year, but he’s an excellent all-around player who will do everything he can to keep Peabody competitive.
He rarely steps off the field and plays with a toughness that Peabody coach Anthony O’Donnell hopes is contagious.
On the local college scene, congratulations are in order for Gordon senior midfielder Anna Blomberg, who set a new goal scoring record for the Fighting Scots. With four goals in a win over Wentworth Saturday, Blomberg became the all-time leader in goals with 201. Blomberg passed Amy Zerr, who totaled 200 goals from 2002-05.
Lax Lowdown, a column on North Shore high school lacrosse, runs each Tuesday during the spring sports season in The Salem News. Contact staff writer Matt Jenkins at 978-338-2648, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @MattJenkins_SN.