DANVERS — When the state playoff pairings came out last Friday, the St. John’s Prep lacrosse team saw that they had been granted the No. 1 seed in Division 1 North. So they set about planning their postseason course.
“We talked about it and said we have this amount of days left,” said head coach John Pynchon, “and that if we go all the way to BU, this is how much time we’ll have left together.”
The state finals will take place at Boston University on Thursday, June 20, and if Friday’s tourney opener is any indication, the Eagles plan on sticking together for most of this month.
Twelve different players had at least one goal and 16 found the scoresheet in all as the Eagles rolled past Peabody, 17-3, at Glatz Field Friday evening.
Now winners of 10 straight games and 15 of their last 16 outings, the Eagles (17-3) dominated the entire way with a suffocating defensive effort combined with a patient, balanced scoring attack. Six different players netted two goals for the winners, including junior attack Michael Ott (who added 3 assists), senior middie Wes Rockett (2 assists), senior attack Jake Surette (assist) and Pat Keefe, and junior mids Pat Nistl and Dan DeLaus.
Nearly all of the Prep’s 15 seniors are now working part-time jobs since graduation, and Pynchon likes to joke with them once they reach the field for practices or games. Friday was no different.
“They’re coming in, looking ragged, and I’m like ‘Welcome to the real world!’,” laughed Pynchon. “So they have to adjust to the new normal, which in the second season there is no routine. There is no normal.”
Making its first playoff appearance in four years and already having won a first round game earlier in the week over Revere, ninth seeded Peabody came in with a plan to possess the ball in an attempt to slow down the Eagles. But those plans were thwarted by Prep senior faceoff specialist Craig Yannone, who dominated on the dot to constantly put the ball in his teammate’s hands.
“That kid is ridiculous,” Peabody head coach Leo Shidler said of Yannone, who won 10-of-14 draws before giving way to an equally effective Graham Tyson (who won 9-of-10). “It’s tough to be successful when you don’t win many draws. His hands are super quick, he battles and never quits. It seems like he gets the clamp every single time; we’re so used to Pat (Russo, the Tanners’ FOGO) having the clamp every time. (Yannone) just pushes forward and can do it all.”
Seven straight goals in the second half stretched a 4-1 lead into an 11-1 halftime cushion for the hosts, who stretched it to 14-2 after three quarters before running time took over.
Senior Alex Kreher was stingy when he had to be, turning aside seven shots before giving way to classmate Liam Stacy (1 save) in the final stanza.
Drew Leahy, Tripp Clark, Michael Ayers, Jackson Klein and the Prep defense mentally adjusted, said Pynchon, so that Peabody couldn’t get repeated long possessions by remaining aggressive, causing turnovers and clearing the ball, leading to scores at the other end of the field.
Single tallies for St. John’s came from senior middie Luke Brennan, sophomore mid Michael Kelly, junior attackmen Josiah Brown and Brian Souza, and junior midfielder Tucker Smith. Senior Ben Shaw, Sean Gilbert and Ben Grunes, all midfielders, each added an assist.
“Our depth is a huge advantage for us,” admitted Pynchon, whose team will take on Central Catholic Monday (7 p.m.) back on their home turf in the Division 1 North semifinals. “We’re running six middies and three attack and have three defensive mids, three long sticks we have confidence in, and two great faceoff guys.”
In his final game as a Tanner, senior captain Connor McCarron had a goal and an assist. So did junior middie Colby Therrien, with sophomore attack Jack Houlden also scoring and junior mid Nick Patturelli dishing off an assist. Another senior captain, Austin Leggett, did what he could to stop the Prep offensively, turning aside seven shots.
Peabody will lose eight seniors — Leggett, McCarron, Josh Tanzer, Tyler Norman, Jack Woods, Ryan Fera, Russo and Aiden Kelleher — but will have a lot of talent returning in 2020. The postseason experienced gained this year will only help them moving forward.
“To be able to come in here to play (against) who I think is going to end up winning the whole thing, it’s an experience you can’t get elsewhere,” Shidler said. “Hopefully they learn from it; I think they did. I know we did as a coaching staff.”