Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Post Game Blog: Shrewsbury and St. John's Play One for the Ages

Shrewsbury celebrating its Division 2 Central/West semifinal win over rival St. John's. Click to enlarge.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)


That's about all I can say after Shrewsbury used a 4-1 fourth quarter run to upset St. John's 7-6 Tuesday.

The game had hard hits, an eventual game-winning goal that came off a rebound, and a big save from an All-American goalie playing with his team a man down. As a reminder, this blog is not a complete recap of the game. If you want that, head on over to BostonLaxNet or ESPN Boston for my two stories.

If you would just like to see highlights, you can find those here.

Make It Ugly

After falling to the Pioneers 9-0 the first time around, Shrewsbury knew something needed to change. St. John's had the speed advantage, and face-off specialist Connor Maloney dominated the X in the teams' first meeting. This time, Shrewsbury wouldn't exactly control possession, but they at least limited Maloney's clean face-off wins and stopped the Pioneers from running in transition off every goal.

Mucking it up at midfield, and getting physical on the defensive end, thanks to hard hitting by the Couture brothers and Tim Hally, kept Shrewsbury in this game so that they could make their move late.

Dell'Olio a Stabilizing Force

One guy that didn't show up much in the box score, but still had a huge impact, was Shrewsbury middie Derric Dell'Olio. In an effort to get the senior on the field more, Colonial coach Nate Skermont decided to play Dell'Olio at both attack and midfield throughout the game, allowing him to pick up ground balls, call plays and just generally calm his teammates down.

"Derric's a presence on the field for us," Skermont said. "We said yesterday if we're gonna go down, we're gonna go down with a heavy dosage of Derric Dell'Olio on the field."

A CMass Football Parallel

If you're looking for the last time Central Mass has seen a storyline like this, you need only go back to the fall when the St. John's football team upset what appeared to be an unbeatable Leominster squad. Drew Smiley, dabbling as an All-State quarterback, torched the Blue Devils to avenge a previous 33-22 defeat against Leominster and help St. John's win the Central Mass crown. Those Pioneers would win the D2 Central/West game against Springfield Central a week later, and came up just short of a state championship at Gillette Stadium against state No. 1 Mansfield.

A Great Season for St. John's

Obviously, several guys on the St. John's lacrosse team, including All-American attackman Drew Smiley, now have to deal with being on the other side of that coin. Still, it shouldn't take away from one of the greatest regular seasons in Central Mass lacrosse history. The Pioneers rolled through CMass undefeated, absolutely torched reigning Division 1 state champion Xaverian on the road, defeated state power Acton-Boxborough, and bested a pair of other Catholic School rivals from the eastern part of the state.

Is it the ending these guys wanted? Of course not, but like the 2013 Leominster football team, there's no reason for the Pioneers to hang their heads.

Best in CMass

I know Grafton is still alive in D3 Central/West, and Groton-Dunstable plays tomorrow in the D3 Central/East semis, but this game was the unofficial "Central Mass title game." In a way realignment took something away from this game. Instead of taking home a regional crown, Shrewsbury only gets to play for a district championship against a team from Western Mass.

Not that the Colonials aren't excited about taking on equally upset-minded Westfield (who just knocked off Longmeadow), but don't you sort of get the feeling that this should have been the Central Mass tournament championship game?

The Central Mass Lacrosse Coaches Association lists every CMass champ dating back to 2002 on its website. I don't know how they'll begin to distinguish and recognize teams for this year and beyond, but Shrewsbury definitely deserves a nod as the 2014 "CMass champs."


Anonymous said...

Congrats to Coach Skermont and the colonials. A class coach and team. Keep it going for CMass!
Good luck.

Anonymous said...

"the unofficial "Central Mass title game.""

While SJS and Shrews, who I believe are the two best teams in CMASS and Shrews deserves a ton of credit and respect for the W, I would amend your statement that it was the CMASS Div 2 title game (should be Div 1 based on size...if they could make that happen) because now, after years of living a lie, the MIAA and CMASS recognize the imbecility (I know that for years there were not enough teams but a little thought could have fixed that like they are attempting now) of placing these large schools in the same leagues and tournaments as schools like Grafton, Littleton etc... So yes Shrews is the tops in CMASS but it would be nice to be able to crown CMASS divisional champs. Someday hopefully!

Congratulations and good luck to all the CMass teams still in the hunt!

Joe Parello said...

I definitely agree that it's great to see the smaller schools getting their own division, but I was simply saying it was a game between the two best teams in Central Mass. Would be great to see a "large school" and "small school" CMass tournament in the future. That would make games like this one more meaningful.