GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

May 10, 2013

Roller coaster of a season for local lax teams

Checking local lax teams as they head for home

On Lacrosse Nick Curcuru, and Conor Walsh
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — With the local high school boys and girls lacrosse teams making their way down the season’s stretch run, we know what each team brings to the table.

It hasn’t always been pretty, as just about every lacrosse team on Cape Ann has had to face adversity this season. But it has been competitive the whole way through, and while some teams certainly have flaws, all have shown glimpses of good lacrosse this spring.

Here’s a look at where each team stands, how it got there — and where it seems likely to go next.

Manchester Essex girls

Season Highlights: It’s tough to find a spot to start with the Hornets. Not because of struggles, but because they’ve been that good.

Manchester Essex has already locked up a postseason tournament berth after jumping out to an 11-2 start, and with just three regular season games remaining, the Hornets will simply be looking to continue building off what has so far been a phenomenal season.

Their losses have come against Northeastern Conference frontrunner Marblehead and CAL Large leader Masconomet, and mixed between those losses have been a ton of impressive victories for the Hornets, who enter today’s game with Lynnfield on a five-game winning streak.

The Hornets’ first big win of the year came in the season’s second week over CAL Small rival Hamilton-Wenham, which has also already qualified for the tournament at 10-3.

Likely their biggest win of the year came on Monday, though, when the Hornets extended their winning streak with a nail-biting, 6-5 win over Ipswich. The Tigers entered the game undefeated in conference play and as Manchester Essex’s biggest obstacle as the Hornets push for a CAL Small title.

With that game knotted at 5-5 as the final minute ticked off the clock, Brittany Smith converted the game-winning goal with 40 seconds left to secure the dramatic victory.

Goalie Katie Furber’s been a force between the pipes all year for the Hornets, and with Smith, Carolyn Heslop, Olivia Mastendino, Taylor Meek, Megan Jones and a slew of others giving the Hornets depth from end to end, they’ve been an absolute force.

Outlook: A year ago, the Hornets fell to rival Ipswich in the Division 2 North quarterfinals after an 11-7 regular season.

This year, look for them to take the next step. They’ve established themselves atop the CAL, and if they can close out their regular season with wins in at least two of their final three wins, they should earn favorable seeding atop the D-2 North bracket.

Manchester Essex has proven that they know how to win, and it doesn’t look like the Hornets are looking to buck that trend any time soon.

Gloucester girls

Season Highlights: Coach Amanda Levie looked at this season as the culmination of a long rebuilding process.

The Fishermen went winless in 2011 and just 5-11 last season, but seemed primed to make that next step forward this season.

So far, that’s held true. The Fishermen sit at 4-4 as they enter the second half of the season and have looked much improved this year.

Gloucester has ridden the play of Melodie Orrell and Tess Destino, while others like Caity O’Leary and goalie Yazmeen Shahain have provided solid play all year.

The Fishermen have really just won the games that they were supposed to win, and there’s something to be said for that. They’ve beaten up on the likes of Winthrop and Revere (they’ve beaten each twice) and currently find themselves in second place in the NEC South. With only one league game remaining against South leader Salem, the Fishermen are locked into one of the top two spots in the division and could realistically take home the hardware with a win over Salem in the season finale.

Either way, the rest of the season will hopefully be an extension of the forward strides the team has made over the past few seasons and the Fishermen will no doubt be looking to start knocking off teams of a higher caliber.

Outlook: Even if the Fishermen drop that season finale against Salem, they’ve already punched their postseason ticket. Gloucester can finish no worse than 4-2 in the NEC South, and by virtue of a top-two division finish, they’ll be there in the postseason.

They can still claim a share of the South title if they top Salem, but that’s immaterial at this point. At this point in the year, it seems that the rebuilding process is done and a tournament appearance will certainly be a gratifying thing for a program that’s struggled for years.

Gloucester boys

Season Highlights: The Fishermen boys have experienced more than their fair share of ups and downs as they head into the season’s stretch run.

At 3-8, Gloucester is clinging to grim postseason hopes after yesterday’s game with Beverly was postponed. And while the Fishermen’s season has featured some impressive wins, there have been an equal number of head-scratching losses.

The Fishermen have played a difficult schedule this season with wins over Peabody and Danvers, probable state tournament teams, representing the high points of the season as Gloucester gets ready for its final five games of the season. Gloucester, however, also has a pair of disappointing losses to Manchester Essex and Swampscott that essentially crippled their state tournament hopes.

While inconsistent, Gloucester has shown flashes of being a very good lacrosse team and when it’s on its game the team is well-balanced and a tough out. When Gloucester is off, however, sloppy play and a knack for finding the penalty box has really set the team back.

Offensively, Gloucester has been leaning on the trio of juniors Ian Kennedy and Jason Lattof along with sophomore Winslow Lewis. Senior midfielder Austin Titus has also delivered the offense while leading the team in transition and on face-offs.

Defensively, the Fishermen have been stout from the get go as seniors Jesse Glidden and Devin Hemeon along with junior Mike Falzarano have locked down even the strongest offenses in the Northeastern Conference.

Outlook: Inconsistency has hurt the Fishermen all season and it’s the main reason they will probably not be playing in the postseason this spring. Still, Gloucester has something to play for down the stretch run with Austin Prep, Ipswich, Georgetown and a rematch with Manchester Essex.

They may not play in the postseason, but a strong finish for the Fishermen will go a long way in terms of the future.

Manchester Essex boys

Season Highlights: A young Hornets squad has predictably struggled in the shark tank that is the Cape Ann League.

But while Manchester Essex (2-7) has certainly taken a few shots on the chin this season, there have been some moments the Hornets will look to build on.

They’re winless in the CAL, sure, which flies in the face for the short-term goals of first-year coach John McCavanagh. McCavanagh’s spoken of creating a lacrosse culture in the area, and through that he hopes to build a power program.

This season’s struggles haven’t changed those goals, nor do they do the program’s forward progress justice.

Look at the Hornets’ 6-1 drubbing of Gloucester in a local clash to benefit Coaches vs. Cancer late in April. After stumbling out of the gates with a 1-5 start, the Hornets capitalized on the lessons of some lopsided losses and overwhelmed the visiting Fishermen to give them local bragging rights.

In that win, Manchester Essex jumped out to an early lead and then absolutely suffocated the Gloucester offense to notch an impressive 6-1 win.

There have been bright spots across the field. Co-captains John Beardsley and Chris Dumont have been very good all season, and goalie Alex Taliaferro has lived up to his big expectations.

Outlook: The season may not have the end result that McCavanagh had hoped for entering his first season at the helm of the program, and with some strong teams remaining on their schedule things may not get better any time soon.

But the Hornets are young and McCavanagh certainly appears to have them believing. With a steady coach in place and an experienced group set to return next season, this year’s struggles may very well pay dividends moving forward.