Thursday, June 21, 2018

Dover-Sherborn Holds off Grafton for Spot in D3 Final

By Ryan Bowman (@itsryanbowman)

Bolton, Mass. - In the seemingly annual tradition, Grafton and Dover-Sherborn met in the D3 State Tournament for the fourth straight year.

Led by freshman Pierce Gregory’s five goals, the Raiders ultimately prevailed 15-11 and earned the right to take on Cohassett in the Division 3 State Championship on Saturday afternoon at Boston University.

If the first quarter was any indication on how the game would end, Dover-Sherborn would have put up 20 or more goals. After trading early goals to make it a 2-2 game midway through the first quarter, the Raiders’ offense exploded with 6 goals from 5 different players in the final 7 minutes.

Gregory finished off his hat trick with a transition goal with 15 seconds left in the quarter and they held an 8-2 lead after the first.

“We came out really timid,” Grafton head coach Alan Rotatori said. “We weren’t aggressive enough to match their shooters, we were stick chasing a lot out of the pocket and trying to pick off passes and you can’t do that against this team.”

The second quarter started off slower with both teams turning the ball over a few times in the opening minutes. Jack Gurney scored midway through the quarter to cut the lead to five, but Jack Dillion answered less than a minute later for the Raiders. The Indians kept chipping back with another goal from Gurney and Stephen Rotatori, but Dover-Sherborn responded with some of their own.

The Raiders maintained an 11-6 lead at the half.

Grafton came out in the third quarter with newfound energy, winning more faceoffs and groundballs.

“They were doing a better job of sliding [defensively] and we couldn’t move the ball out of the double team as fast as we could of,” Dover-Sherborn head coach Brian McLaughlin said.

Defensively, the Indians started sliding better and disrupting the Raiders’ offense. Some big saves from Matt Nicalek lead to transition offense for Grafton and they rattled off three goals to cut the lead to three. A Tyler Hart goal with 33 seconds left in the third quarter made it a two goal game entering the fourth quarter and the momentum was starting to shift.

Grafton’s momentum carried over to beginning of the fourth quarter as Ryan Warner scored a fast break goal for the Indians and suddenly it was a one goal game with just over eight minutes left. However, their momentum halted and they could not manage another goal for the rest of the game. The Raiders maintained possession and got a goal from freshman Ford Pegram and two more from Gregory as they ran out the clock to end the game.

Asked why they had trouble closing the gap in the fourth quarter, coach Rotatori had one word.

“Groundballs," Rotatori said. "We were winning almost all of them up until then and we started to lose one and then two and the momentum shifts. Some things were out of our control and gave them some possessions and they capitalized on them.” 

For Grafton, Sean Tyldesley and Stephen Rotatori both finished the game with a hat-trick and Gurney added two. Matt Nicalek finished the game with six saves and had a really solid game despite the eight goals allowed in the first quarter. The Raiders were lead by Gregory with five goals, Jack Dillon had a hat-trick, and Timothy Polk and Matt Paolatto both had two goals of their own.

Dover-Sherborn has now won three of the last four meetings, with their only loss coming in an epic, triple-OT game last year in the state semifinals.

“We pride ourselves in coming back every year and trying to find the right pieces of the puzzle for the team, switching positions, whatever it takes,” coach Rotatori said. “The kids are all in. They buy in and they want it bad.”

“We’re a completely new team with a lot of superstar seniors leaving last year,” coach McLaughlin reflected on seeing the same team for the fourth year in a row. “Every year is different, we see the same team and might see some familiar faces but it’s definitely a different team.

Dover-Sherborn will look to win its third state championship in four years, as the Raiders take on Cohassett in the Division 3 State Championship on Saturday afternoon at Boston University's Nickerson Field.

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