By Matt Jenkins
---- — Beverly boys lacrosse coach John Pynchon isn’t making any predictions or placing any unnecessary expectations on this year’s Panthers.
He’s simply making a statement.
“I think we had the best preseason we ever had. It’s maybe not the best team I’ve had in preseason, but we’ve gotten better every single day of practice,” Pynchon said. “It carried over from last season. There are high expectations and they know it — and they expect to do just as well as last year’s team, which is kind of great.
“I feel like that’s been missing. If you lose in the first round you didn’t get where you want to go and you lose that experience of playing in those games. These guys have that experience.”
The Panthers lost a lot of talent from last year’s East Division 2 semifinalist, but there are a lot of holdovers.
A huge portion of the offensive firepower — particularly All-American midfielders Dom Abate and Brendan Flaherty — have moved on, as well as key players at attack, midfield and defense. But Beverly does have two of its top five scorers back on board this year and a solid, experienced defensive crew, led by senior goalie Kevin Lally.
“Obviously at the beginning of the year the defense is ahead of the offense no matter what, but where our defense is is really good,” Pynchon said. “Our defense wasn’t a weakness last year; we were just more of an offensive team. We wanted to get up and down and score more. This year it’s going to be that we’ll win when we hold teams to four goals. We might score six or seven, but if we can hold a team to four goals we’ll win. It’s not going to be the same style of lacrosse early on, but who knows?”
Senior attack Matt Page and Nick Albano should be able to pick up some of the scoring slack.
Senior defenseman Ty Martz has been starting since freshman year and Pynchon expects him to anchor a strong defense in front of Lally.
Pynchon has also liked what he’s seen so far from sophomore midfielder Jordan Rawding, who saw a lot of action last year as a freshman, and junior midfielder Ian Butler, a big, strong, athletic player who should soften the blow of losing Abate and Flaherty.
Junior long-stick middie Bryan Flaherty, senior defenseman Dylan Jutras, and senior midfielder Nick Donovan are also experienced players Pynchon will count on this season, and there will be a new Abate wearing the Black & Orange this season. Dom’s younger brother Sam, a freshman, has looked good so far.
Pynchon expects the Northeastern Conference schedule to be tougher than ever, which should only help the Panthers’ development.
“I think across the board the conference is going to be much better,” Pynchon said. “Every year the NEC seems to get better and better. A lot of our success is a reflection of how it’s gotten better.”