Friday, June 19, 2015

Grafton to Face Massive Challenge in D3 State Final

Goalie Cadrin Msumba (22) and poles Tom Nicalek (3) and Youki Azuma clamp down on Ipswich Monday.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe) and Bruce Lerch (@blerch27)

Ed. Note- Bruce Lerch of BostonLax.Net and The Boston Herald has been kind enough to provide me with a breakdown of Grafton's opponent, Division 3 mainstay Dover-Sherborn. You can find his analysis right after my look back at Grafton's season.

The Grafton Indians will make their first ever state finals appearance today, and will conclude a long and arduous journey that has seen them battle injuries, a brutal schedule, and some bumps in the road along the way.

Facing one of the toughest schedules in Division 3 Central/West, the Indians scored a huge win over D2 Central power Algonquin in their second game, but the win came at a cost. Star junior attackman Chase Kapuscienski broke his foot, and has been playing on a bad wheel ever since. Grafton has seen the injury bug hit the rest of its team, with senior captain pole Connor Evans go down for an extended period, and at times dealing with as many as seven players out of the lineup simultaneously, five of them starters.

The Indians were also forced to bounce back from a humbling defeat to St. John's where everything that could go wrong, did. Graton fell behind a highly motivated and talented Pioneer team on the road, in the rain, and without the depth to keep up. The 10-0 score turned heads around Central Mass, but it was just another bit of adversity for the Indians to fight through.

Grafton again had to share the Mid-Mass. title, when upstart Tantasqua nipped them 10-8 in the teams' second meeting, splitting the season series, and a pair of close losses to Shrewsbury and Westboro (in OT) made it appear as if the Indians were close, but not quite there.

Then the postseason started, and Grafton's now healthy defense began to dominate. Led by goalie Cadrin Msumba, poles Tom Nicalek, Dan Bartosiewicz, Youki Azuma and the now-back Evans, the Indians have held all four of their opponents to less than half of their combined season scoring average. The most impressive performances came in the D3 Central/West final where Grafton held Mt. Greylock, an offensive juggernaut, into the single digits for the first time all year, then followed that up by another single-digit performance against explosive Ipswich.

Kapuscienski, while hobbled, still had a fantastic season, but his injury may have made the attack even more dangerous. Cole Fontana and Hunter Fraser have never played better, or more aggressively, than they've played down the stretch here, and middies Anthony D'Angelo and Ryan Tyldesley have come on to add a scoring punch.

All that, and we haven't even mentioned the hero of the Ipswich game, junior middie Josh Birdsall, or ground ball demon D/LSM Tom Flynn.

Yes, the Indians have been through a lot, but their biggest challenge still awaits them in the form of D3 state power Dover-Sherborn. Bruce Lerch of BostonLax.Net and the Boston Herald has been kind enough to provide his breakdown of the Raiders, and you can find that below.

Lerch on Dover-Sherborn

Unlike Grafton, Dover-Sherborn is used to the big stage as the Raiders are making their fifth consecutive appearance in the Div. 3 title game and won it all in both 2012 and 2103. The Raiders are also battle-tested thanks to a non-league slate that included Andover, North Andover, Lincoln-Sudbury, Catholic Memorial and Franklin; not to mention the four Tri-Valley league games they get each year against Div. 2 Central/East finalists Medfield and Westwood.

When talking about Dover-Sherborn, you have to start on offense with Boston University commit Grant Gregory and North Carolina-bound Bailey Laidman. Gregory, a senior, and Laidman, a sophomore, have been honored as first-team Eastern Mass. All-Americans the past two seasons and are as dangerous a duo as you'll find at any level of lacrosse.

Riding shotgun with those two has been Will Spangenberg, who has stepped up in several of the Raiders biggest games, shouldering the scoring load when his more celebrated teammates are under the watchful eyes of opposing defenses. Of late, D-S has also become very balanced across the scoresheet. Chris Williams and John Hargreaves are just two of the many players in the midfield who are capable of making teams pay when they focus on the attack. Even the second unit is getting into it of late as Jack Mahoney turned in a four-goal effort in the state semifinals against Cohasset.

Sophomore faceoff man Joe Paolatto has emerged as a key player in the Raiders postseason run as well, dominating his matchups at the X and giving his dangerous offensive teammates that many more possessions.

The defense has been a work in progress but has gelled at the right time, thanks in large part to the leadership of senior pole Mark Czeisler and senior goalie Jack Fontaine. Czeisler does a bit of everything for D-S: he plays lock-down defense; he is a key guy in the Raiders slide packages; he excels in the clearing game and he plays the wings on faceoffs and grabs ground balls in the middle of the field.

One thing D-S will never do is listen to the hype. Yes, they've been viewed all season as one of the heavy favorites in Division 3, a perception only enhanced by a 13-5 rout of Cohasset, the other heavy favorite, in the semis. The Raiders know that Coach Alan Rotatori will have his team fully prepared and ready to go, but after losing a heartbreaker to Cohasset (10-9) in last year's final, this is a club that is hungry to finish the job this time around.


Anonymous said...

Tantasqua did not beat Grafton in overtime.

Joe Parello said...

Right you are. I somehow mixed the 2nd Tantasqua game up with the Westboro game. Corrected now.