South Hadley seeks to knock off undefeated Longmeadow in Division 2 lacrosse finals
TJ Fitzell, center, and the South Hadley boys lacrosse team are in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship game for a fifth straight season. The Tigers play undefeated Longmeadow at 5 p.m. Saturday at Chicopee Comp. Purchase photo reprints »
After falling twice to top-seeded Longmeadow in the regular season, South Hadley now faces its toughest postseason test yet in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Boys Lacrosse Tournament.
Second-seeded South Hadley (16-5) will play undefeated Longmeadow (22-0) in the finals at 5 p.m. Saturday at Chicopee Comp.
The Lancers won 10-2 on May 1 in South Hadley. The Tigers took them to overtime on May 22 but eventually fell 12-11 in Longmeadow.
“It’s going to be a tough task, but I’ve said it all year, if there’s a team that will knock them off it is going to be us,” South Hadley coach Kyle Cloutier said.
The Tigers are playing in their fifth straight championship game. They fell to Minnechaug last season. South Hadley lost to Longmeadow in 2011 and 2010. It beat the Lancers in overtime in 2009.
The Tigers reached Saturday’s championship after their dominating 17-6 win against No. 3 Mount Greylock in the semifinals.
Although South Hadley saw a lot of success in faceoffs against Mount Greylock, the Tigers struggled to do so against the Lancers during the regular season.
“The focus is on correcting the mistakes we made when we faced them before,” Cloutier said.
Ground balls are another focus. Ground balls “could go either way, so we need to take advantage of their mistakes and capitalize on them,” Cloutier said.
After missing the second half of the regular season with an injury, goalkeeper Justin Pontz has returned to the net for the Tigers. With its starting goalie back on the field, South Hadley now has a healthy team entering the title game.
Evan Marcus leads the Tigers with 83 points on 40 goals and 43 assists.
Sam Duda leads the team in goals with 46 goals.
Other big players for South Hadley are Ryan Dickinson (29 goals, 29 assists) and TJ Fitzell (27 points, 24 assists).
“We need to outwill them, or they will outwill us,” Cloutier said.