There is no statistic that quantifies the importance of size in the defensive end, no number that details plays disrupted or game plans altered, and the intimidation factor is rarely acknowledged.
With his imposing 6-foot-4 frame, and his long defender’s stick, Duxbury High senior Matt O’Keefe is a physical nightmare for foes going up against the Dragons’ defense that also features fellow All-Americans Max Randall and James Burke.
“From an athletic standpoint he has talent, but he just has all the intangibles,” Duxbury coach Chris Sweet said of O’Keefe. His squad squared off against Needham in the Division 1 East final Wednesday night at Harvard. “He has leadership skills, he sees things out on the field, and he’s such a great teammate.”
With those intangibles, Sweet said, O’Keefe is a college-ready player, and his size and skill set will be a major asset at the next level. O’Keefe will join a defensive unit at Johns Hopkins that yielded just 7.38 goals per game, the seventh-best figure in the country this season.
Johns Hopkins head coach Dave Pietramala “is going to discover the same things I did,’’ Sweet said, that O’Keefe “has all the intangibles, that he’s going to steadily get better and better, and that he’ll steadily win over his teammates and coaches.
“He’s going to have a great career there.”
On a much smaller scale, but similarly effective, Norwell High senior Leah Smith, at 5-5, was a pest for opponents all season.
An attack as a junior, Smith shifted to defense this spring and caused problems for some of the best teams in the state, including Division 1 South champion Westwood, Division 1 North champion Lincoln-Sudbury Regional, Division 2 South finalist Hopkinton, and Notre Dame Academy in Hingham.
A vocal leader on the pitch, Smith’s knowledge of the game helped anchor a defense that yielded less than nine goals per game.
A number of other players, both boys and girls, put together terrific seasons. Here’s a few who stood tall:
Best offensive player (boys):
Tucker Ciessau, Scituate
The junior finished second in the state in points (110 goals, 37 assists) – falling one point behind Laxachusetts teammate Cam Joyce of Archbishop Williams – and guided the Sailors to their best overall record in program history at 18-5.
His numbers are all the more impressive considering Scituate’s demanding schedule, which included Duxbury, Hingham, Hanover, and Needham.
“His ability to finish, that’s really what’’ sets Ciessau apart, said Scituate coach Mark Puzzangara . “He’s just a strong, powerful dodger that does not get frustrated if a defense turns him back. He keeps going and going right at that person.”
Best offensive player (girls):
Laura McHoul, Westwood
As a senior leader of the juggernaut Wolverines, and Tri-Valley League MVP, McHoul makes everyone around her better.
The University of New Hampshire recruit entered the Division 1 state final with 65 goals and a whopping 84 assists, many of her feeds going to Boston College-bound Kate Rich (89 goals, 29 assists), a lethal tandem that has come to exemplify Westwood lacrosse the past four seasons.
The tourney has brought out the best in McHoul, who exploded for six goals against Notre Dame in the Division 1 South semis, and showed her passing skills in notching five assists against Needham in the South final.
Best goalie (boys):
Greg Stamatov, Foxborough
The Hockomock MVP was a force, allowing just 3.4 goals per contest during the regular season.
In his three years guarding the cage, the Warriors developed into one of the best defensive units in the state. In 2010, Foxborough was ranked 17th in the state, moved up to fourth last year, and up until an 11-3 loss to Concord-Carlisle in the Division 2 East quarters, was second this year.
“He’s played at a great level his whole life,” Foxborough coach Matt Noone said of the All-American, who is headed to Villanova. “He’s ready for the next step, no doubt. I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts next year at Villanova. I think he can contribute right away.”
Best Goalie (girls):
Callahan Kent, Thayer Academy
Thayer coach Erin Cash believes in building her defense from the goalie out, and she could not have a better anchor than Kent.
Callahan has a lacrosse IQ that is unmatched in the challenging Independent Schools League, and she racked up a 6.46 goals against average against the best players in the region. She limited Middlesex and St. Mark’s (13-3), two teams that averaged over 13 goals per game, to a combined 17 goals. The Norwell resident has verbally committed to Vanderbilt for lacrosse.
Breakout performer (boys):
Cam Dillon, Archbishop Williams
After finishing his junior season with career bests in goals (22 goals) and assists (21), the senior attack exploded for 65 goals and 29 assists this spring.
His big numbers were essential to the Bishops’ success: the 19-4 record was the best in the program’s 10-year history.
“I didn’t think he’d have that many goals,” said coach Bob Joyce , “but I knew with his big body, opponents couldn’t move him off the crease. He’s 6-foot-2, 195 pounds. He’s not an easy body to move.”
Dillon will play golf and lacrosse at Emmanuel.
Breakout performer (girls):
Samantha Galler, Marshfield
The Rams returned to the Division 1 South tournament after a three-year hiatus thanks to big numbers from the budding freshman, who delivered 27 goals and seven assists.
“She has a great touch on the ball and just a great shot,” said Marshfield co-coach Susan Collins . “I think next year we have even higher expectations for her.”
Unsung hero (boys):
Charlie Neaves, Cohasset
After his team’s appearance in the Division 3 East semifinals last year, Cohasset coach Tom Flanagan was inundated with injuries and other issues this spring, leaving him short on attacks.
He turned to Neaves, who was dealing with an injury of his own, but stepped forward as a scorer.
“Charlie tore a muscle in his groin two weeks before the season,” said Flanagan. “He was out seven games, but came back and played hurt the whole season for us.”
In the 14 games he did play, the Colorado College-bound middie/attack racked up 50 points and 94 ground balls, helping the 7-12 Skippers reach the Division 3 East quarters. “We could feel sorry for ourselves or lace it up and play,” said Flanagan.
“We laced it up and played.”