As the Duxbury High forward barreled down the right side, took a left diagonal route toward the goal and then launched a shot, Stephen McSwain took to the air.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound keeper for Silver Lake Regional dove to his right, fully extending his body, and tipped the ball wide of the goal post, keeping the game tied, 1-1, midway through the second half.
McSwain loves the pressure that comes with being the last line of defense.
“For me, especially if it’s something like a breakaway, it’s always about taking up space, getting big and trying to intimidate them, force them to make a mistake,” the senior said. “It’s a lot more pressure on them to put that ball in than it is for me to save it.”
The Silver Lake boys, off to a 3-0-1 start, netted a pair of late goals for a 3-1 win Tuesday afternoon.
It was the third consecutive win for McSwain, but his two-game shutout streak came to an end.
Sam Ballerini started between the posts for Silver Lake the previous two seasons. He was a Patriot League All-Star. An all-star on the baseball diamond as well, he joined the soccer team in 2010 and helped the Lakers win the league’s Keenan Division title. Silver Lake won the league title last season as well, with Ballerini serving as a captain.
McSwain said he was able to absorb lessons before Ballerini graduated, which is why he did not feel that it was a major adjustment moving into a starting role this fall.
Aside from the mechanics of the position — such as delivering goal kicks or save techniques — Ballerini taught McSwain the importance of having a proper work ethic.
McSwain now runs track as a means to keep sloth at bay.
Coach Dan Correia said he believes McSwain’s deep understanding of the game has put him in a position to succeed, especially early in the season.
“His technical skills are better than where Sam is,” Correia said. “And he’s big. He covers a lot of area, really controls the box well, where Sam relies on instinct and athleticism.”
McSwain grew up playing the game with two older brothers, Michael , now 28, and Ryan , 20, who stuck him in net so they could practice their shooting. That’s where he developed his competitiveness.
When McSwain is not tending net for Silver Lake, he suits up for his club team, the Plymouth-based C.S. United, a squad recently formed by the merger of Crusaders United and SS Stingrays.
Duxbury High coach Brian Johnson was on the losing bench Tuesday, but he is an admirer of McSwain’s play. He coaches the keeper on the C.S. United squad.
“I knew it was going to be a challenge to put one by him,” Johnson said. “He’s a senior goalie, quality goalie, good leader. We got one, but hell of a team, hell of a player.”
Brian Coneeny , a first-year starter as a defensive midfielder at Silver Lake, also has ties to the C.S. United program, on its U-16 team. And his older brother, John , who led Silver Lake in points last season as a senior, also played for Johnson at the club level.
Against Duxbury, the younger Coneeny was placed in the back four and acted as a gatekeeper, turning away opposing forwards.
Last season, according to Correia, the Coneeny brothers had strong chemistry on the field. In practice, going head-to-head, they were sibling rivals.
Their bond off the field was never stronger than last October, when their mother, Judy, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
The team holds raffles to raise money for breast cancer awareness and research, and the players all wear pink laces to show their support for the family.
“Whenever I looked down I just remembered my mom,” Brian Coneeny said. “I played my hardest for her.”
Judy Coneeny was not able to attend games last year because illness-related fatigue, but her cancer has since gone into remission. She has attended Brian’s club games and watched the Duxbury match.
This year, her son Brian is energized again by a desire to win the league and a state title. He said the team quickly filled holes left by four departed starters and can make a deep playoff run, largely in part to McSwain and the team’s focus on defense.
Correia said there is an expectation to qualify for the playoffs, but it’s a long while away and the groundwork to getting there is performed at this stage in the season.
“It’s not easy,” he told his team following the win in Duxbury. “The tide can turn in a second. We have to set the tone and earn our chances.”
Scituate snaps winning streak
by Whitman-Hanson’s girls
With a 2-0 loss to Scituate on Tuesday, the Whitman-Hanson Regional girls suffered their first loss of the season, snapping the team’s 28-game league unbeaten streak. The Panthers (3-1) are the eight-time defending league champions.
Scituate coach Rob Williams said he wasn’t aware of the streak, but felt his 3-0-2 team has been playing with confidence since a come-from-behind 2-2 tie with Duxbury on Sept. 9.
“We’re very strong all through the middle and back,” Williams said. “We have a great goalkeeper and our central defenders were fantastic” in Tuesday’s match.
Keeper Meghan James is the team’s lone senior, but Williams said junior defender Oriana McDonough has been vital. She didn’t allow herself to get beaten on any rushes in the last game, and added a goal via a header off a corner kick.
Whitman-Hanson coach David Floeck said his team has been struggling with finishing its chances and it finally caught up to them.
“We had three or four real quality opportunities within the first 30 minutes and had limited their scoring chances, but we couldn’t put it away,” Floeck said. “They had a corner kick and they scored on it.”
Dedham girls stay on a roll
The Dedham High girls extended their win streak to six with a 4-1 victory at home over Wellesley High on Tuesday. Senior forward Sabrina Ferhani (two goals, four assists) has emerged as the leader in points, though the Marauders are receiving production from all over the field.
Coach Don Savi said junior defender Andrea Bradbury is filling a key role on the back half of the field, mostly by winning 50/50 balls and transitioning well into the offense.
With her help, Dedham allowed just two goals in the six outings.