By Nick Curcuru
---- — MANCHESTER— The Manchester Essex boys lacrosse team viewed Saturday’s Cape Ann clash with Gloucester as a new beginning.
The Hornets took their fair share of lumps in the first six games of the season compiling a 1-5 record during a brutal stretch against some of the best teams in the area including several Cape Ann League crossover games.
Manchester Essex head coach John McCavanagh thought his team learned a lot during that tough stretch, however, and Saturday was the time to show off its improvements.
In Saturday’s tilt the Hornets looked like a team ready to turn the corner riding a perfectly executed zone defense to a 6-1 win over Gloucester at Hyland Field in the second annual Coaches vs. Cancer Game, where the proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.
Manchester Essex improves to 2-5 with the win, Gloucester falls to 2-6 with the loss.
“We had some hard lessons from some tough games, but we’ve learned a lot through that process,” McCavanagh said. “We knew the front end of the schedule was tough with games against some strong programs. We had some bumps but we’re coming along and it’s starting to show.”
Saturday’s win was all about the Hornets zone defense, which frustrated the Gloucester offense and completely took it out of its game. Manchester Essex forced the Gloucester shooters to take low percentage shots away from goalie Alex Taliaferro. The defensive unit was also able to keep its Cape Ann counterparts out of the crease.
When shots did get through, they were either contested along the way or Taliaferro was there to make the save.
“That’s the value of the zone, pushing them to the outside and managing the crease area,” McCavanagh said. “I don’t think some teams are ready for it and we are playing it soundly right now.”
Gloucester held possession early on but the Hornets defense hung strong and turned the momentum for good once they got their opportunity. With 1:16 to play in the first frame Manchester Essex got on the board on a goal from John Beardsley. Under 30 seconds later Bennett Strayton, who McCavanagh said had a “breakout game”, made it 2-0 after a great shot fake earned him an open look.
It was the second frame where the Hornets took control. Beardsley and Strayton traded goals in the middle of the frame to make it 4-0. But it was Dylan Estes that essentially put the contest on ice with two goals in the final 1:20 of the half, the second coming right at the first half buzzer.
From there Manchester Essex let the defense go to work, forcing Gloucester into ill timed passes was stuffing every drive towards the goal. Cormac Flickinger put Gloucester on the board with a nice individual effort late in the third quarter, but that’s all the Hornets defense would allow.
McCavanagh praised the play of sophomore Doug Rodier on the defensive end along with midfielder Chris Dumont on both ends of the field.
While Gloucester struggled on the offensive end, it’s defensive unit held strong shutting out the Hornets in the second half. Devin Hemeon, Jesse Glidden and Mike Falzarano powered the Fishermen’s defensive effort.
At 2-5, McCavanagh is hoping Saturday’s win is the start of a nice winning streak.
“Our goal is to make the tournament,” McCavanagh said. “We viewed this game as a fresh start and I liked the energy and execution.”