Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Postgame Blog: Nipmuc Storms into D3 C/W Finals with Win over Mt. Greylock

By Connor Evans (@RonnocEvans)

MILFORD - A trip to the D3 Central/West championship on the line. Two great teams. Only one advances.

On a pristine night in June, the Mt. Greylock Mounties trekked out to Milford, MA to play against the Nipmuc Warriors. Though it was close a few times, Nipmuc left little doubt. A 15-7 final score has the Warriors set to meet the rival Grafton Indians in the sectional finals.

Fast Start. Strong Finish.

Nipmuc scored in the first 30 seconds of the game. The Warriors came out flying and put up one of their more prolific first quarters this seasons. George Morrice got the offensive flurry started, followed by a Max Morrill dodging goal 3 minutes later. The ensuing faceoff won by Christian Moss was carried all the way to the cage. He tossed one in himself. Ryan Richards would factor in next, netting two. That wouldn’t be all we heard from him today.

Greylock finally found its footing after the 5-0 blitz Nipmuc opened with. David Falk made a phenomenal save on the crease (he had an incredible game) and turned the Nipmuc shot into a Greylock possession. Michael Wellspeak would capitalize, netting the Mounties’ first goal of the game.

The first quarter would end 5-1 Nipmuc.

The second quarter rolled back the scoring, but just a little bit: Richards would score and Cooper Offord would find the back of the net twice on assists from Michael Manning for Nipmuc.
On the Greylock side, Patrick Storie and Reilly Parker would work hard to net one apiece.

At halftime Nipmuc led 8-3, as star goalie Alex Chu stood on his head with 9 first-half saves.

Greylock put on a little pressure in the third quarter, outscoring Nipmuc 3-2 through the first 11:19, on two goals from Michael Wellspeak and another from Storie.

However, a quick counterattack by the Warriors gave them two more goals (Max Morrill, Mike Manning) added onto the two scored by Richards. 3rd quarter went to Nipmuc 4-3.

All Nipmuc needed to do was hold out their 12-6 lead in the 4th, and that’s just what they did. Storie of Greylock tossed in a nice shot of a great dodge from X, but that would be all the Mounties’ could scrounge together in the 4th quarter.

The Nipmuc defense was stifling and their offense scored three more times (Richards (2), Morrill).

Final: 15-7

Takeaway for Greylock

Another dominant season for the Mounties’ comes up just short. Another great run for a great team. I give the boys from the West a lot of credit. A lot of people say there isn’t enough competition out there for us to truly gauge the level of play Greylock is on.

However, any team than can win 16 or more games per season and return to the district semifinals FOUR years in a row, (District championship THREE years in a row) is doing something RIGHT. They put in a lot of hard work and are well coached. Every time they make it to the big stage they play tough.

Today was a lopsided score, but that is more of a testament to just how good this Nipmuc team really is. I expect the Mounties to reload yet again next year and be in the hunt for the district title.

Takeaway for Nipmuc

What a game, what a GAME.

This Nipmuc team is special. As a program, the Warriors have improved steadily over the years and this could finally be their chance. The stars may just have aligned for these guys. They’ll get a chance to show all of the state what they’re really made of this Friday.

Having covered Nipmuc a few times now, I knew generally what I was looking for out of tonight’s performance. What I got however, was a little flavor of something new.

Nipmuc’s defense.

I knew these guys were good, but watching them tonight was a different story. Huge credit to their poles as they were ALL over Mt. Greylock’s shooters. But also, huge credit to the attack and midfield. Off ball, every player on Nipmuc tonight was playing TOUGH defense.

Whether it was the attack riding, the midfield snagging ground balls, the polls shutting off offensive weapons, or Alex Chu standing on his head (for crying out loud, the man had like 22 saves!), defense was rock solid.

Playing a team like Greylock, you’re going to get scored on. But, the key to the offensive success Nipmuc had tonight was thanks to possessions. The defense for the Warriors was CONSTANTLY taking the ball back and effectively clearing it to the offense.

Every time I looked, the ball was back in Nipmuc’s control. As a guy who played pole, I have to give a huge shout-out to a team that played superb defense the entire game.

Pat Donelan, Ryan Richards, and Alex Chu

After the game I caught up with Alex Chu (22 saves), Ryan Richards (7G), and Pat Donelan (Unsung defensive hero, I see you Pat) after the game.

The guys were impressed with Greylock, first and foremost. “They had a long drive, but no bus legs. I was really impressed. They came out swinging,” said Donelan.

“They were a great opponent for us. They play how we usually do… Maybe start a little slow, but fight back strong halfway through. It gave us a good perspective of how to stay in the game against Grafton,” said Chu. (Seemed the guys were already looking forward to Friday. Next game up.)

“The important thing was we came out flying for once. It changed the whole game for us. We got momentum and really kept it going,” said Richards.

As for the team effort, it seemed as if something really clicked. Richards told me “We are playing as a TEAM. It took almost all season but we are really starting to gel as a team.”

As for his 22 save performance, Chu had nothing but praise for the guys in front of him. “22 is just a number to me. The guys in front play a huge role though. They make all the shots easier.”

“I think a huge part of today was ground balls,” said Donelan, in response to his thoughts on the win. “Brandon Lefebvre had like 15 ground balls. We were hustling on everything.”

As for their feelings on their upcoming game, the guys seemed fired up, yet calm and prepared. Richards finished off: “For us, it’s always been ‘The District Final with Grafton’. We knew it at the beginning of the season ‘we have to beat Grafton.’ It’s a big rivalry. We are excited”

The intensity I felt from these guys was only furthered by the words of coach Eric Brocket after the game.

“We came out playing some of the best lacrosse we’ve played in the first quarter… It was a good day for us.”

He didn’t revel in this long though. I asked what the next few days would be like for the Warriors. His reply: “We’ve got one day of practice. The focus is going to be Grafton. We are going to prepare for Grafton. And we are going to get ready for a war. A war."

I love the sound of it. A great local rivalry. They split 1-1 this year. Rubber match? Let’s make it for the title! Can you ask for a more exciting matchup?

So what does Coach Brocket tell his guys in order to prep for this war?

“These guys are focused. I don’t need to tell them much. They know what’s at stake. They understand the quality of the Grafton program and they want a little payback after (the Indians) came out and punched us in the face last time we played.”

And of course, his last thought echoed…

“It’s going to be a war…”

See you all Friday Night. It should be an instant classic.

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