Parity seemed to be the common theme stressed by local boys lacrosse coaches when tournament pairings were announced for all three East divisions yesterday.
Thirty-three teams qualified in East Division 3 and 32 earned a place in Division 2. Division 1, meanwhile, was the low number of the bunch with 25 qualifiers, but that bracket has never been more even.
Wide open fields mean the importance of playing well reaches a much higher level. Every team feels it has a chance to advance, especially in the early rounds, so slow starts and a lack of focus could be the difference-makers.
“I think it’s the most parity in the tournament than there has been in a while, simply because there seems to be a few good teams but anybody can beat anybody,” St. John’s Prep coach John Roy said.
East Division 1 is always difficult to navigate through and some of the higher-seeded teams this season took turns knocking one another off.
St. John’s, which earned the No. 6 seed and will play the winner of No. 11 Andover and No. 22 Cambridge on Friday at home, defeated No. 2 Needham, but lost to No. 1 Lincoln-Sudbury and No. 3 Duxbury. In the name of parity, Needham defeated Duxbury and Duxbury got the best of L-S.
One win would almost surely give the Eagles (12-6) another crack at Duxbury in the quarterfinals, a little earlier than most coaches would want to see the state’s most dominant program.
Roy is not overly concerned about that potential matchup, however.
“It doesn’t matter,” Roy said. “If we advance, we’ll just go down there and see them again if they make it. We didn’t feel overpowered by Duxbury (in a 7-1 loss earlier this month). We stalled out on offense; that seemed to be our Achilles’ heel the final three games.”
Getting Jack Sharrio back to 100 percent is a major concern for the Eagles, who dropped their final three regular season games to L-S (13-3), Duxbury (7-1) and Division 2 power Medfield (9-6).
Sharrio, Andrew Gallahue and Drew O’Connell are the likely players to re-ignite the Prep offense while Derek Osbahr, Anthony Merrullo and Eamon O’Leary have been excellent on the draw.
Defensively, St. John’s has been solid all season with Lucas Bavaro, Tucker Mathers and Bryan Uva limiting the opposition. The emergence of junior goalie Lucas DeAngelo has also been important for St. John’s.
Peabody returned to the East Division 1 bracket for the first time in four years and the Tanners have a chance to play Duxbury, too. In order to do so, the 19th-seeded Tanners (11-9) would have to defeat No. 14 B.C. High (9-9) on the road Wedesday (5 p.m.).
Masconomet (11-9) drew the No. 15 seed and is also on the same side of the bracket and will open with No. 18 Braintree (13-5) on Wednesday (5 p.m.).
Salem, under the guidance of first-year head coach Anthony Nardella picked up the 21st seed in Div. 1 after an 11-9 regular season. The Witches travel to No. 12 Newton North (13-4) Wednesday (5 p.m.).
A pair of Salem’s Northeastern Conference rivals — Beverly and Marblehead — are looking to make some noise in East Division 2.
Aside from a slip-up against Reading (the No. 3 seed in Div. 2), Beverly finished the regular season really strong, including wins over Div. 1 teams Masco and Acton-Boxborough. The Panthers were awarded the fifth seed and will host No. 28 Apponequet Tuesday (2:45 p.m.).
Beverly coach John Pynchon likes his team’s draw, but he knows they need to show up ready to play.
“The last two years I felt like the teams we drew were going to give us good games and we lost both times. Obviously, if we show up and don’t play well we could lose. But if we do play well, we’ll be fine,” Pynchon said. “I like our side of the bracket. We match up well with the teams that are in it. It’s nice to be up in that top 8 (seed) because we’re guaranteed two home games (with wins). It’s a good seed and a good side of the bracket.”
Beverly has several players who jump off the pages of a scouting report, but Pynchon feels Matt Page, Mike Dooling and Conor Leahy have quietly had tremendous seasons.
Marblehead, the co-champions with Beverly in the NEC, also had a tremendous season and seem primed for a long tourney run. The Magicians are the 10th seed and host No. 23 Dartmouth on Wednesday (5 p.m.).
Marblehead sophomore goalie Nathan Maselek, who joined Beverly goalie Kevin Lally as the NEC Defensive Players of the Year, is key to the Magicians’ postseason run.
Freshman Cam Macri of Hamilton-Wenham is another local player who earned league recognition this season, and he’ll be critical to the Generals’ success in East Division 3. Macri, an excellent defensive player who was named Cape Ann League Division 2 Player of the Year, helped Hamilton-Wenham to a 11-7 season and the eighth seed.
The Generals will host No. 25 Marian on Wednesday (5 p.m.) in a first round game.
Jimmy Littlefield, another freshman, and seniors Matt Vogus, Eddie Frick and Steve Turpin are also important players for Hamilton-Wenham.
“When we work hard I’m very confident that things will turn out all right,” H-W coach Jim LaSelva said. “When we play to our potential I know we can play with anyone. We had some games where we had tough competition and played well, and some games we sat back and watched it unfold. I think if we play to our potential we could do well.”
Bishop Fenwick drew the No. 23 seed and will make the program’s tournament debut at No. 10 Hanover on Tuesday (5 p.m.).
North Shore Tech, in the tournament for the second straight year, is the 33rd seed and will play at No. 32 Blue Hills on Tuesday (5 p.m.).