SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 14, 2013

Lax Lowdown: Salem boys soaring to new heights

Lax Lowdown
Matt Jenkins

---- — Lax Lowdown

Matt Jenkins

The Salem boys lacrosse team has had a tremendous year under first-year coach Anthony Nardella, wrapping up an early qualification for the postseason and also capturing the Northeastern Conference South division title.

All of that plus a 10-4 record doesn’t mean the Witches have been free from some bad luck, especially recently.

Salem lost starting goalie Christian Costa because of a concussion recently. Then, before Costa could even return to the field, the senior found out he has mononucleosis which will likely knock him out for the rest of the spring, unless the Witches make a long tournament run.

Senior Kevin Nguyen has done a fantastic job filling in for Costa, but late last week he took a hard shot to the head that knocked him out of the team’s game against Georgetown.

”He took a pretty good shot,” Nardella said. “He was going to be checked out (for a concussion) again, but he’s symptom free right now. We’re hoping to get him back (this week).”

Keeping up with the “next player in line” philosophy that so many other successful teams live by, junior Will Meadowcroft more than did the job taking over for Nguyen. Although the Witches ended up falling to Georgetown in double overtime, Meadowcroft played excellent, keeping Salem in the game in overtime.

”He played out of his mind,” Nardella said.

Nardella is thrilled with his team’s ability to overcome the adversity it has faced down the stretch.

”It’s been great. We’ve had a number of guys step up,” Nardella said. “Matt Jalbert didn’t play a whole lot (against Georgetown), then he got the game-tying goal. We talk about being ready when called on and all our guys, including JV guys who have been called up, have done a great job.”

In addition to the role players who have been stepping up, Salem has some of the top scorers in the NEC.

As of Sunday night, Chad Coelho led all scorers in the NEC South and was second overall. His 74 points (56 goals, 18 assists) trails only Peabody’s Keifer Heckman, who has piled up 50 goals and 35 assists for 85 points.

Mat Muse (18-40-58), Peter Slattery (35-20-55) and Matt Willson (27-17-44) have also been instrumental in helping the Witches find the net.

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Masconomet boys head coach Tom Cobb joked about his second 100 wins coming a lot faster than his first 100 after recording career win No. 200 last week. But the increased pace on the Chieftains’ victory parade hasn’t happened by accident.

It could have been argued the last few years that Masco was simply getting mileage out of a tremendous class of stars, a class that included Kurt Hunziker, Tim Towler and Jake Gillespie, among others. What the Chieftains have done this spring only proves that the program has truly elevated to the rare level of simply reloading each year.

After graduating 13 very good seniors, the Chieftains still captured their third straight Cape Ann League Division 1 title.

”It’s come from different aspects. My first few years at Salem (in the early to mid-90s) we had no JV team or youth program, to being at Masco where so many kids come in with playing experience or knowing about the game and starting to understand the game,” Cobb said. “All those things are great and they make life a little easier. Since 1998 it’s been great to see lacrosse become a sport that is kids’ first sport, not third or second sport.”

Masco has actually become a consistently good team for the past 10 years. Between 2004 and 2012, Masco averaged more than 15 wins per season, twice winning 18 games and only once dropping below 14 victories. Masco now stands at 11-6 after falling to Billerica, 8-7, last night with three games remaining.

”We graduated so many last year, 13 was our biggest class to graduate since I’ve been here. Losing so many starters and being so young, a lot of young guys have been putting in work this year,” Cobb said. “One of our goals was to capture (the CAL title) again. We said that this is where we’ve set the bar, just because we graduated some people doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hold up the intensity level or the level of accountability.”

This year’s senior class, although much smaller than last year’s, has played a big role in leading the Chieftains back to the title. Goalie Tighe Van Lenten is one of the best in the area, and he co-captains the team with Dylan Mann, a midfielder who excels in the faceoff X.

Trevor Surette and Adam Murphy have also had a big impact on Masco’s success this spring.

”Coaching has been great, being able to give back to a whole bunch of student-athletes over a long time,” Cobb said. “The kids drive the bus, so it’s just great to get out there and see the enjoyment they have and see them get some success.”

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Yesterday’s battle with Marblehead was only the beginning of a difficult week for the Ipswich girls team. The Tigers host 11-3 Hamilton-Wenham today, then go to 11-4 Masconomet on Thursday.

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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 mjenkins@salemnews.com, or follow him on Twitter @MattJenkins_SN.