Individual milestones could have easily been put ahead of team accomplishments. But the Archbishop Williams boys were able to satisfy both goals.
For the first time since the beginning of the 2008-2009 season, the Bishops knocked off Catholic Central rival Arlington Catholic, rolling to a 12-6 victory Thursday afternoon.
Less than a year after breaking his collarbone, senior attack Cam Joyce registered two goals and six assists to break the school record for career points (262) set by Brian Josephine.
Not to be outdone, senior linemate Cam Dillon, also a four-year starter, registered seven goals to net the 100th point of his career.
The following day, however, when the players entered the locker room on Storrs Avenue in Braintree, the Bishops were quickly reminded that there is more to the game than goals and assists.
On the team whiteboard, individual numbers were listed next to the team leader in the respective category from the Arlington Catholic game: statistics ranging from goals and assists, to ground balls, saves, and face-offs won.
“We have 12 guys that make the score sheet every game,’’ said 10-year head coach Bob Joyce, the father of Cam. “On every team, there’s a top guy and a bottom guy, but if we can get our top 12 guys involved every single game, that’s what you want to try to focus on.’’
‘The fact that we’re beating quality teams hopefully will give us confidence when we face elite teams.’Bob Joyce Lacrosse coach, Archbishop Williams High School
The focus on overall statistics is a new philosophy Joyce has incorporated this season.
It’s a philosophy he calls “moneyball,’’ after the famous baseball approach in which statistics other than home runs and runs batted in can help a team achieve wins.
In Joyce’s version of moneyball, he homes in on the importance of ground balls and face-offs.
“He really bases his philosophy around if you win face-offs, and you win ground balls, you have a real good chance of winning games,’’ said sophomore attacker Nick Menzel.
“You can’t score when the other team has the ball, and they can’t score when you have the ball,’’ he said. “As long as you have the ball, only you can score.’’
The game has evolved into a systemic process at Archies.
In the face-off circle, junior midfielder Max McClay or sophomore Michael Jessman feed the ball to long-stick midfielders in a spot where they can pick it up and maintain possession.
Once the ball is loose, the Bishops rely on the stick-handling abilities of senior Sean LeBlanc (team-leading 39 ground balls) and freshman Pat McPartlin (22) to scoop up ground balls and move the ball up for scoring opportunities.
“He kind of runs it like a business,’’ the younger Joyce said of his father’s coaching style. “Attacks are there to score. Midfielders are there to run it down and get it to the attack. Face-off guys are there to win the face-offs. Long stick midfielders are there for the ground balls. We all just focus on our part, and we’ll all come together as a team.’’
Said the elder Joyce: “We try to complement [each player’s] strong suits, and keep them out of a position where their weakness is going to cause the team failure. If they’re not a good midfielder, and they’re a great defensemen, well, they’re going to play defense.’’
The results, according to the coach, were seen instantaneously.
Through the Bishops’ first five games, the team won nearly 80 percent of face-offs and nearly the same percentage of ground balls.
With the added possession for their strong line of attacks, the Bishops have also converted nearly 50 percent of their shots (71 goals on 148 shots) en route to averaging over 14 points per contest.
While the offensive numbers have been prolific, the change in philosophy also has had a calming effect on the team. Players can focus on the areas of lacrosse at which they excel and don’t have to worry about areas of the game in which they are lacking
“I know when I go out there my primary thing is ground balls, so I don’t have to bother with the attack,’’ LeBlanc said. “I can come off the field, save my energy, and back on defense, I go and get the ball again.’’
What is out of the players’ control is not “even a blip on the radar screen,’’ the coach said.
“They know it’s not their job, so they don’t worry about that,’’ Joyce said. “The two face-off guys don’t have to worry about playing attack or playing defense or stopping the ball. That’s the other guys’ jobs.’’
For now, the players must continue to focus on their individual job. The team goal is the Catholic Central League title and beyond, but the focus is the next game, and the importance their job has to the team’s overall success.
“Everyone has their spot and knows their place,’’ Menzel said.
“When we get everyone working like that, it’s clockwork.’’
Walpole girls ready to make a run
The last three seasons, the Walpole High girls have always been looking up at perennial powers Framingham, Needham, and Wellesley in the Bay State Conference standings.
A year removed from an 11-11 season, the Rebels are ready to make a run under former assistant Mike Tosone, who has switched roles this spring with former head coach Tim Drummey.
“Last year was a very, very satisfying year for all involved because we were extremely young,’’ Tosone said. “To get to the tournament was difficult, and to win a game [a 17-9 win over Falmouth] was gravy.’’
This year, with a quick 3-0-1 start, the Rebels are quickly starting to build confidence.
“I think that the teams we have beaten are decent teams,’’ Tosone said. “The fact that we’re beating quality teams hopefully will give us confidence when we face elite teams.’’
Tosone has received impressive play early on from senior netminder Erin Nelligan, junior midfielder Seana Cofsky, and his daughter, Michaela Tosone.
The Rebels trailed the entire game before rallying in the final minutes for a 16-all tie against Natick last week.
But Tosone and Walpole understand that the real tests will come later.
“We’ve never quite been able to compete with the elite programs [in Bay State Conference],’’ Tosone said. “It’s an unstated goal to make sure Walpole is not a gimme to those guys anymore.’’Andrew MacDougall can be reached at email@example.com.