Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Postgame Blog: St. John's and Grafton Advance to CMass Final

Grafton celebrates a return trip to the CMass title game.

By Joe Parello  @HerewegoJoe

Here is yet another reminder that this blog is simply my wandering thought on the CMass semifinals. If you would like a full recap of both games and highlights, head to BostonLax.Net. If you would like more on Grafton's 7-3 win over Shrewsbury, head to ESPN Boston.

The Big Five

After his team's win over rival Algonquin, St. John's coach Terry Leary spoke of the depth of competition in Central Mass. When asked if he felt his team had to play two CMass finals in a row, since they had to face fellow "Big Three" members Algonquin and Grafton back-to-back, Leary pointed out that Central Mass is more than that.

"I think it's a big five," Leary said. "I thought Westboro was there and I think Shrewsbury is there. So I really thought it was a big five this year. I told our kids when we got the draw, I liked the draw that we had. Look, if we're gonna win, we've gotta beat the teams, right? I'd rather have to beat a good Westboro team, and a very good Algonquin team, and have to face one of (Grafton or Shrewsbury) than show up in the finals and think you can turn it on or turn it off."

A Year of Great Goalie Play

Shrewsbury's Chris Gorman was insane between the pipes for the Colonials, helping them hold Grafton's normally explosive offense to just one first half goal. It may have held up if Grafton's Eric Thompson hadn't played such a spectacular game on the other side.

In the St. John's-Algonquin game, Giles Ober lived up to his All-American billing for the T-Hawks, but keys saves by A.J. Arnold helped the Pioneers withstand a late Algonquin run. It certainly was a great year for goalies in Central Mass, especially when you add in the season Dan Terry had for resurgent Westboro.

"A.J. played really well (Tuesday)," Algonquin coach Rich Luongo said. "And he did that to us in the game down at Assumption (a 7-6 St. John's win)… I think both goalies played really well, I don't think you can ask much more. (Arnold), Giles and Gorman from Shrewsbury have played a lot of lacrosse against each other and they're all close. It's nice to see that camaraderie form between some of the better goalies in the region."

Grafton Playing Tight

While Shrewsbury's great defense had something to do with it, something just seemed off with Grafton's offense. The Indians looked out of sorts early, and plenty of ball were hitting the ground, something uncharacteristic of a normally crisp Indian attack.

Grafton coach Alan Rotatori thought his team may have been a little nervous, especially since the finality of losing a game would be all the worse for his large number of seniors.

"These games are really awful when it comes to pressure," Rotatori said with a smile. "It's not like the Bruins where you've got seven games to kind of get it done. Even the Penguins can turn it around and win four straight. I hope they don't, but… I just think it shows were our program is. When Shrewsbury beat us earlier this year, their kids ran on the field like they had just won a championship. Four years ago when I started here, we upset Shrewsbury, and our kids ran on the field like we had won a championship. Now we're a respected program, and teams are trying to take us out every game, and pressure comes with that."

Rain Check

After the Pioneers' victory in the early game, members of the St. John's coaching staff were discussing the possibility of Saturday's CMass final being postponed due to storms. If so, the game would likely take place on Sunday, but it's unclear whether or not the Western Mass vs CMass state semifinal game scheduled for Tuesday would be moved as well.

If Western Mass plays their game on Saturday and CMass doesn't play until Sunday, it could be a bit of a disadvantage, just in terms of rest time, for whichever team comes out of CMass. The winner of this weekend's final will likely play undefeated Longmeadow, a team that has already defeated St. John's this season, and beat Algonquin 13-3 when the Tomahawks were dealing with some early season injuries.