The Salem News
---- — Lax Lowdown
DANVERS — Someday, John Pynchon might figure out what he did to upset the lacrosse gods.
A personal losing streak was extended yesterday morning for Pynchon, the Beverly boys lacrosse coach who has been on the wrong side of the St. John’s Prep-Beverly rivalry in the last eight meetings he’s been involved with. Pynchon’s eighth straight defeat in the series came in dramatic fashion at Cronin Field as the Eagles stormed back from a five-goal halftime deficit to win 13-11.
St. John’s Prep is an elite Division 1 program in Massachusetts, so there’s no shame for Beverly dropping a tough battle against the Eagles. What makes Pynchon’s streak interesting is that he’s been a part of both teams.
Pynchon graduated from St. John’s Prep and lost to Beverly in both his junior and senior years. Now, after yesterday’s setback, he’s lost all six meetings with the Prep since becoming the Panthers’ head coach.
“I haven’t won a Beverly-St. John’s game since I was a sophomore,” Pynchon said. “There was a great picture in the Salem News, we beat (Beverly) in the playoffs and I was covering Craig Boaman. It was down here (in Danvers) and we beat them in a home playoff game. That was the last time I won.”
Not only did it appear that Pynchon’s streak would end throughout the first half of yesterday’s game, it also seemed like the Panthers had the potential to blow out their Division 1 opponent.
Beverly (5-1) started quickly with a 3-0 lead — two unassisted goals by senior midfielder Dom Abate — and answered an early second quarter Prep run by scoring five consecutive goals for a 9-3 lead. Beverly still seemed to have all the momentum at the half, even after St. John’s Prep junior attack Andrew Gallahue scored 21 seconds before intermission.
“We looked a little bit sluggish in the first half and they looked fast, so we were concerned. And they moved the ball well in transition,” St. John’s Prep (4-1) coach John Roy said. “Top to bottom, I’d say they’re a pretty solid team and we dug in there in the second half and got this, but if we didn’t it could have gotten a lot worse.”
St. John’s clearly fixed its problems during the break and quickly stole momentum, outscoring its guests 4-2 in the third quarter. The Eagles followed that with a 5-0 fourth quarter.
“We knew they were going to make runs, but there were a couple problems (in the second half). Our end of game on-ball defense was atrocious and we failed to clear the ball,” Pynchon said. “We cleared the ball perfectly all day and I don’t know what happened. We were there, knew where we needed to be, but three dropped balls and we can’t clear it. You’re not going to win that way.”
St. John’s held the Panthers to two goals in the second half and the Eagles have a reputation for being a good defensive team. But this comeback was more about possession.
The Eagles had a hard time holding onto the ball in the first half, but in the second half senior midfielder Derek Osbahr completely dominated the faceoffs, winning 11 of 14, and the Eagles started taking care of the ball.
“He’s the best we’ve seen so far and he’s the best I’ve seen in the scouting that I do,” Pynchon said about Osbahr. “He was good ... really good. It hurt that Conor Leahy, who I thought was doing a pretty good job against him, got hurt and was out the whole second half. I think that hurt us a lot.’
Two goals from junior midfielder Drew O’Connell pulled the Eagles within one goal, then senior midfielder Ben Alpern scored the game-tying goal on a feed from Gallahue and followed with what proved to be the winner on a pass from Jack Sharrio with 1:56 to go.
Senior Ben Anthony added the insurance goal with 1:21 left.
“We wanted to move it a lot on attack, get a lot of screening up top on the crease so I saw Jack come around and come to his right and I cut and they left me open,” Alpern said. “On the tying goal, I don’t even think (Gallahue) meant to pass it to me. I think he was trying to go up top, but I just reached up and put it in. It went really fast, but it was pretty cool to score against my hometown.”
Alpern finished with three goals, while Gallahue led all scorers with four goals and one assist. Gallahue’s final goal was his most impressive. After getting tripped and a flag being thrown, Gallahue fell to the ground but maintained possession. He rolled over and skipped a shot past Beverly goalie Kevin Lally to cut the Panthers’ lead to 10-7.
O’Connell had two goals for the Eagles, Anthony had one goal and two assists, and Shawn Waldron and Sharrio also scored for St. John’s.
Abate and Ty Martz each had three goals for Beverly and Nick Albano chipped in two goals and one assist. Lally was sharp in net for Beverly.
The Panthers may have suffered their first loss of the season in this game, but it wasn’t a total loss.
“We know we can play with anyone and Brendan (Flaherty) and Dom, Ty Martz, Kevin Lally are just as good as anyone and I think they know that. The problem is we kind of ran out of steam. It’s a learning experience,” Pynchon said. “They’re not in our conference, not in our division, we don’t have to beat them again to win a state championship. In the long run it’s the best thing that could happen to us. This is why we play them.”
Brendan Flaherty scored one goal and set up another for Beverly, but stats alone can’t describe what he brings to the table for the Panthers.
Blazing speed makes him so dangerous in transition.
“He get a ball behind the goal and ran all the way down and scored and ran off the field. You can’t stop that. There’s nothing you can do. You can’t even game plan for it,” Pynchon said. “You want to shut him off, well now he’s on defense and he picked up a ground ball. You can’t shut that off. The only thing you can do is hope to slide to him. I think we’re going to see teams slide to us more, which is going to open our attackmen. If they’re slow to slide to Brendan, he’s finishing it.”
Roy said you just have to be prepared to deal with him.
“Unfortunately, that’s where midfielders in good condition help. If you have a long possession on offense and the kid has the gas to clear the ball himself and takes the ball end to end, you just gotta be prepared to run with him,” Roy said. “A lot of midfielders aren’t necesarily ready to do that. It’s difficult to defend.”
Keifer Heckman continues to score at a tremendous pace for the Peabody boys and that is due in some part to the emergence of Nick Ouellette as another strong scoring option for the Tanners.
“It’s helped Keifer out because teams can’t concentrate on him and it frees him up,” Peabody coach Anthony O’Donnell said.
The Marblehead girls lacrosse team has a lot of experience, especially on the offensive side of the ball, but senior goalie Allie Forman is an unsung hero for the Magicians.
“Her confidence and leadership is contagious,” Marblehead coach Annie Pugh said. “With Allie leading the defense our transitions are getting smoother and faster as we move the ball up the field.”
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.