By Dan Harrison
---- — BEVERLY — They got the start they wanted Saturday afternoon.
The rest of the game, however, was another matter.
Scoring two quick goals to open up the Commonwealth Coast Conference title game, the Endicott College men’s lacrosse team seemed to be on the right path. But then Western New England goalkeeper Brandon Body stepped up his game and negated the Gulls for the majority of the contest from there on out, guiding his team to a 9-5 championship victory.
Connor McCormack and Kyle Weber scored goals from in close to give Endicott (13-6) a lead six minutes in. But the Gulls started settling for shots from the outside, and Body (14 saves) got into a groove and ate them up. When the Gulls got a couple of good looks close in the second half, the WNE keeper was up to the challenge.
“They were giving us shots that they wanted us to take,” said Endicott head coach Sean Quirk. “The scouting report on (Body) says if you can get to him early, you can rattle him a little. But if he gets hot, he’s tough to beat.”
Once Body started to deny the Gulls’ shooters, they were visibly frustrated and began throwing the ball away on easy passes. Meanwhile, the visiting Bears (11-6) scored two goals in the third period to snap a 4-4 tie, then extended that lead to four in the final stanza. The Bears had killed a two-man down situation for 30 seconds and right after, George Knapp and Owen Caruso scored back-to-back goals to make it 8-4.
“They found some 1-on-1 matchups with their midfield, and we had a tough time with our second and third slides,” noted Quirk. “They found some seams and popped in a couple quick ones.”
With some well-timed dodges, the Bears’ midfielders got penetration toward the net and forcing Endicott defenders to slide for help. Western New England kicked it back behind the cage and quickly found cutters toward the crease, or attacked through isolation from the X-position.
“I think guys gave more effort attacking the cage. We weren’t looking for the quick strike,” explained Bears head coach John Klepacki. “In the playoffs guys want to be the hero, but guys made a couple more dodges and had their heads up, making the team plays over the individual ones.”
Jon Bota, Nick Jez and Adam Knapton had two goals apiece for WNE with James Reardon, Caruso and Knapp contributing a marker each.
Endicott saw McCormack record a hat trick while Beverly native Nick Pinciaro and Weber had a goal each. Gulls keeper Cameron Bell (8 saves) had a couple of strong stops early to preserve the Endicott lead.
The Gulls’ best player on the field was faceoff man Sam Ozycz, who won a ridiculous 15 of 17 draws.
The game’s result was a disappointing one for the Gulls but it doesn’t take away from their strong season (including 7-1 in conference play).
“You can’t measure a season by one game,” said Quirk. “Obviously it’s the game we really wanted to win, but we had a great year. I’m proud of the team. We’ve been resilient.”