The focus in Northeastern Conference boys lacrosse is usually centered on the teams in the North, particularly Beverly and Marblehead. And while those two programs are once again battling for league supremacy, there is a nice battle brewing in the South Division.
Swampscott is a very hot team right now and sits atop the conference standings, but the Big Blue don’t have a cakewalk to the NEC South championship. Salem has won three of four games and remains just one game behind the conference leaders in the loss column.
Host Swampscott beat the Witches, 10-6, the first time around and Salem coach Anthony Nardella is hoping his club can even the score when they meet Thursday at Bertram Field.
“I think we’ve kind of figured things out a little. The first time we played we made a bunch of mental mistakes that cost us,” Nardella said. “We’re executing better on offense, and defensively we’ve clamped down and are playing great fundamental defense.”
Salem has strength in all phases of the game. For instance, Mat Muse has been an outstanding playmaker for the Witches.
“He probably doesn’t get the recognition he deserves,” Nardella said. “He played attack last year and has been our best midfielder offensively and defensively (this year). He clears, he runs for days, and he can create something out of nothing in transition.”
Salem is also strong defensively, led by defenseman J.T. Kapnis and goalie Christian Costa. Meanwhile, Peter Slattery has been an excellent scoring threat for the Witches.
“We have a great group of seniors that have really put in a lot of work and want to build a successful program,” Nardella said. “They’re helping to turn the corner a little bit. They’re leaders and have done a great job on and off the field.”