South Hadley boys lacrosse rebounds, beats Amherst
TJ Fitzell, of South Hadley, moves the ball down the field after breaking away from the Amherst Regional defense, Friday at Michael E. Smith Middle School. Purchase photo reprints »
Donovan Riley, left, of Amherst Regional, attempts to catch the ball Friday at Michael E. Smith Middle School. Takori Mahdi of South Hadley looks on. Purchase photo reprints »
Donovan Riley, right, of Amherst Regional, moves the ball down the field Friday while being defended by Takori Mahdi of South Hadley. Purchase photo reprints »
Isaac Bass, center, of Amherst Regional, shoots the ball against South Hadley, Friday, at Michael E. Smith Middle School. Purchase photo reprints »
Isaac Bass, left, of Amherst Regional, moves the ball down the field while being defended by Griffin Fitzell, of South Hadley, Friday, at Michael E. Smith Middle School. Purchase photo reprints »
TJ Fitzell, right, of South Hadley, moves the ball down the field while being defended by Donovan Riley, of Amherst, Friday at Michael E. Smith Middle School. Purchase photo reprints »
Brian Shippee, left, of South Hadley, battles Nick Johnson, of Amherst, for possession of the ball, Friday at Michael E. Smith Middle School. Purchase photo reprints »
SOUTH HADLEY — After a subpar offensive performance on Wednesday, the South Hadley boys lacrosse team spent most of the first quarter Friday afternoon stuck on one goal against Amherst Regional.
But a three-tally flurry in the final two minutes of the quarter provided a jumpstart to the Tigers’ attack and they went on to an 8-4 victory over the Hurricanes at Michael E. Smith Middle School.
South Hadley (12-2, 6-1 Valley Wheel) responded to its 10-2 loss to Longmeadow on Wednesday, while keeping Amherst (8-4, 4-3) from clinching a tournament berth.
Amherst’s Drew Kosloski (two goals) and South Hadley’s Sam Duda exchanged goals in the game’s opening minutes with a stalemate emerging until late in the quarter. The Tigers broke through with a minute, 41 seconds remaining when Evan Marcus took a feed from Ryan Dickinson along the left side of the cage and beat goalie Will Barstow for a 2-1 advantage.
Just 48 seconds later, Marcus wheeled around the net and fired one home to make it 3-1, then TJ Fitzell found Dickinson with 11 seconds left.
“We brought a game plan into this game and we really saw some success off it late in the first,” South Hadley coach Kyle Cloutier said. “So we just stuck with what we were doing. We strive for balance, and this year we do a good job when we settle it down and play 6-on-6.”
Dickinson finished with two goals and an assist, while Tom Crotty score twice and Fitzell assisted twice.
The Tigers held that three-goal advantage the rest of the afternoon.
“South Hadley made a conscious effort to rally as a team defensively, especially with their starting goalie out,” Amherst coach Matt Crutch said. “Early in the game, we tried to force things when we had the ball, which is out of character for us. They took the air out of the ball and didn’t give us enough possession time.”
Marcus scored three times and had three assists to put him over the 60-point mark for the season.
“Longmeadow really possessed the ball and didn’t let our offense get into a groove, so that’s kind of what we wanted to do in this game,” Marcus said. “TJ did a great job at the faceoff X and got us our possessions so we could get good looks. We came out attacking like we always do, and fortunately we buried enough shots.”
A continuing story for South Hadley is the play of new goalie Jake Lesieur, who made eight saves in the victory, including a sparkling stop in the waning seconds of the first half to keep the ’Canes from gaining momentum. Lesieur is filling in for Justin Pontz and Devin Hoagland, who are both injured.
“Our defense was awesome, and Jake played great, which is really exciting,” Cloutier said. “He’s gotten better each game he’s played in. He clears the ball really well, which is his biggest strength. And he communicates well with the defense. This was his best performance so far.”
Following a rare scoreless quarter, it took the Tigers only 49 seconds into the third quarter to extend the lead to 5-1. Forming a perfect triangle on the left side of the attacking zone, Marcus hit Dickinson who passed to Crotty for the goal.
Kieran Presley (goal, assist) cut the deficit to 5-2 with 4:25 left in the third, but Marcus responded and capped his hat trick in the final minute of the quarter on a spin move along the left goal line.
With 10:25 remaining, the Hurricanes pulled to within 6-3 as Luke Allen pushed the ball up in transition and let loose a laser on the run that beat Lesieur.
But Dickinson and Crotty put in back-to-back tallies over the next four minutes to salt it away.
“This wasn’t a great game for us, but we have a solid group of seniors and they’ll help us bounce back,” Crutch said. “But defensively we played really well. You can’t help but be happy with eight goals allowed to a team as talented as South Hadley.”
Will Barstow stopped seven shots for Amherst, while Isaac Bass chipped in an assist.
“If we see Amherst again, we know it will be an absolute dogfight,” Cloutier said. “Both teams know each other so well, so usually it comes down to which team executes that particular day.”
Michael Wilkinson can be reached at email@example.com.