DANVERS — Dig an early hole for yourself; spend the rest of the contest trying to climb out of it.
That, in a nutshell, surmises what happened to the Marblehead boys lacrosse team Monday evening at St. John's Prep's Glatz Field, as the Magicians could never recover from a five-goal first quarter deficit and fell to sixth seeded Billerica, 15-12.
"We came out flat, just flat. You can't fall down 6-1 in the first quarter a game like this," said Marblehead head coach John Wilkens, whose second seeded club saw the season end at 15-4.
"The difference is that they didn't throw the ball away and we did, and you can't afford to do that at this time of year. We threw the ball away five times alone in that first quarter; that's a game changer. They took advantage and scored."
Sophomore goaltender J.T. Monahan was the star of the game for Marblehead, finishing with 16 saves — including denials with his wrist, helmet and a 1-on-1 point blank stop out front. But the constant pressure from Billerica ultimately proved to be too much.
The Indians (12-8) were more than happy to feast on any turnovers presented to them. Marblehead didn't help itself with sloppy passes and poor execution when they had the ball in the offensive end, and despite five saves from Monahan in the opening quarter the Indians began asserting themselves.
"We looked tired," admitted Wilkens. "When you're tired you don't always take the time to think, and that's when you start to rush plays. You have to come out ready to play or this will happen."
The first of two goals by junior Adam Zamansky put Marblehead on the scoreboard eight minutes in and cut his team's deficit to 2-1. But Billerica ripped off four goals in the final 2 minutes and 23 seconds of the opening stanza, including two big captain Matthew Milano, to take a 6-1 lead after one.
From that point forward, Marblehead attempted to claw its way back in. On several occasions they cut their deficit to three, but each time Billerica prevented it from getting any closer. The last of those happened with 2:48 left in regulation when junior Loch Sheridan flung a shot into the net from 15 yards out, but the Indians ran out the clock from there.
"We put ourselves in a good spot to cut it to two on a number of occasions," said Wilkens, "but then we'd throw the ball away and they'd score every time. Kudos to Billerica."
Sheridan sparked Marblehead with three goals while Adam Zamansky, Christian Penkrat, Will Shull and Sam Thompson each had two. Senior long pole Mason Poisson added a pretty tally of his own, taking the ball straight up the field and splitting the Billerica defense before sniping one past goaltender Ian Gibbons (8 saves). Shull added two assists while Zach Piersol, Sheridan and Thompson had one each.
Milano and sophomore Myles Jean both had four goals for Billerica, with juniors Colby Cyrus and Jack Hutchings, as well as freshman Conor Doherty, with two apiece.
"What I really liked is that there was no quit in this team," said Wilkens, whose two-time Northeastern Conference champions will graduate 10 seniors but return a boatload of talent. "The future's bright here."