By Conor Walsh
---- — GLOUCESTER — As the regular season turns the corner into the second half, the significance of certain matchups begins to diminish.
By a season’s midpoint, the hierarchy of any given conference is generally pretty close to hashed out, often rendering games between teams in the lower levels of the standings irrelevant.
While yesterday’s boys lacrosse game between Gloucester and Swampscott, two teams that had combined for just five wins on the year entering yesterday’s game at O’Maley Middle School, was just that type of game, the product on the field didn’t feature the lack of intensity some may have expected.
It did, however, feature some of the expected sloppiness. For Swampscott, though, none of that mattered in the end as the Big Blue (3-9) pulled away from the Fishermen in the second half, blanking Gloucester in the fourth quarter, to get their first conference win of the season, 7-4.
“I told them, the first thing I said to these guys is ‘I’m so proud for you, not of you,’” Swampscott coach Josh Field said. “I just felt like these guys have worked so hard, even with our record. These guys come out every day to work hard and obviously there’s a lot of things that we need to do better, but this is just a special group of kids and I’m happy to see them get a win.”
Early on, it seemed as though yesterday’s game would be a shootout. With each team struggling with penalties in the first quarter, they traded lengthy possessions and scoring chances — and goals.
Swampscott struck first with the first of midfielder Griffin Hunt’s two goals on the game’s first possession, taking a lead the Big Blue would never surrender. Gloucester quickly responded, though, with an extra-man goal from Jason Latoff to knot the game.
Hunt connected again shortly after on the man-advantage, followed by an Ian Kennedy goal for Gloucester.
Kevin Marescalchi (two goals) rounded out the high-scoring first quarter with Swampscott’s third goal.
The scoring dried up from there, though. The teams traded second quarter goals to go into halftime with Swampscott leading 4-3, and where the Big Blue have struggled all season — the second half — it cruised yesterday.
Swampscott’s defense withstood several lengthy Gloucester possessions and, after trading goals again in the third quarter, grabbed a huge transition goal midway through the fourth quarter to break the Fishermen’s backs.
Trailing 5-4, Gloucester had held possession for a lengthy chunk of time but were unable to score. Swampscott eventually took advantage, forcing a turnover, and sprung toward the Gloucester net where Marescalchi quickly extended Swampscott’s lead to 6-4.
Devin Conroy added the insurance goal for Swampscott late to round out the scoring.
“It’s been a story of two halves for us all year long,” Field said. “I think almost every game, we’ve either been within a goal or leading at halftime then we’ve kind of changed out mentality a little bit. That was one of the first games we’ve played four quarters.”
It was a frustrating loss for the Fishermen. Gloucester (3-8) was coming off a nice upset win over Danvers on Friday, and while state tournament chances remained slim, hope remained.
But with that loss, the Fishermen must now win out to sneak into the tournament, and with teams like Beverly, Marblehead and Austin Prep remaining on the schedule, that will be a tough road to climb.
“The feeling around the team is tough. It’s hard right now,” Gloucester coach Drew Dominick said. “We don’t have much to play for, so we’ll look to have some fun and try to get better every game.”
Ian Kennedy led the way for Gloucester with two goals, while Winslow Lewis added two assists. Latoff (goal, assist) and Austin Titus (goal) also made their way on the scoresheet.
Ultimately, the game came down to opportunities. Gloucester had plenty of them, especially since the Fishermen avoided the penalty problems that have plagued them all season, but they weren’t able to convert.
And while Gloucester’s defense held up against the Swampscott attack, the Big Blue simply found the net more than Gloucester.
“Very frustrating as a coach,” Dominick said. “We had a little bit of self-destruction. We didn’t have the penalties but we threw the ball around a ton. Lacrosse is a sport where turnovers and every possession count, and we didn’t make them count today.
“I think our attack had a tough game. Those three kids are probably my best three offensive players and they really have played well and I think they just had a bad game. All three of them had a bad game at the same time. Usually, one of them rises above but they just didn’t have it today.”