MARBLEHEAD — It had been over a full week since the Marblehead boys lacrosse team last took the turf, so it was understandable when they got off to a lackluster start Thursday evening.
Hosting Masconomet in the Division 2 North quarterfinals, the No. 2 seeded Magicians opened the game by playing some solid defense but faltering with dropped passes, uncharacteristic penalties/mistakes and somewhat sluggish movement.
Fortunately, Marblehead woke up big time late in the second quarter and carried that play into the final two frames en route to a comfortable 11-7 victory. Masconomet got within two goals late in the third, but was never able to further narrow the gap down the stretch against a determined Magicians’ lineup.
“I think we were forcing it a lot in the first half,” admitted Marblehead head coach John Wilkens, his team now 15-3 as they prepare to host Billerica in the sectional semis.
“Towards the end of the second quarter I thought guys kind of relaxed a little bit and we got three or four goals there to get that degree of separation. But I think they were a little nervous or something I don’t know; guys were running tired tonight. We haven’t played since last Tuesday so that was a little factor there too. But it was good to get the win and move on.”
A neck and neck opening quarter paved the way for a Marblehead push in what proved to be a decisive second frame. Skilled longpole Paul Heffernan opened the spree with his second goal of the evening before Loch Sheridan and Matt Thompson followed suit to give the hosts their biggest lead of the game at 6-2.
Marblehead began dominating the ground balls and taking advantage on transition during the run. And while Masco was able to get one goal back before half, the three score cushion felt like just enough as crunch time loomed.
“They did a great job on faceoffs and ground balls,” said Masco coach Andrew Boepple. “Those were the two biggest things I think that helped them maintain possession for most of the game. They also switched in and out of zone a little bit and I think we didn’t do as great a job adapting to that as we probably should have.”
Masconomet’s Ryan Castle did his best to keep his team within striking distance, scoring three times and dishing out an assist in the setback; the senior attackman surpassed the 100-point mark on the season with his four-point game.
“He’s been unbelievable for us and his brother in net, too,” said Boepple. “We’re really going to miss both of them.”
But every time the Chieftains would threaten to inch closer with a goal of their own, Marblehead had a response.
In particular, Heffernan, freshman Charlie McGurrin and the rest of the Magicians’ longpole core did a phenomenal job all night doing the dirty work, while goalie JT Monahan (14 saves) turned forth another terrific effort.
“Poles played great, especially on the faceoffs on the wing,” said Wilkens. “Just fantastic.”
On the attack, Will Shull led Marblehead with five goals on five shots; Heffernan finished with two goals and an assist; Matt Thompson had a goal and an assist; Sam Thompson had a goal and an assist; Adam Zemansky had a goal and three assists; Sheridan finished with one and one; and Matt Paquette tallied an assist.
For Masco, Andrew Aylwin chipped in two goals and an assist while Logan Campbell and Jay Theriault had a goal apiece. Randy Castle also made some terrific stops in net to keep his team close, finishing with 11 saves on the evening.
Marblehead will now host Billerica, a big winner over Reading on Thursday, in the D2 North semis, likely early next week.
“They play in a very tough league, tough schedule but we don’t know much about them so going to have to ask around,” said Wilkens. “They don’t know much about us and vice versa. I don’t think we’ve every really played them which could be a good thing.”