Trying to win a boys’ lacrosse game as the visiting team at Medfield High is akin to trying to take the SATs in the front row of a rock concert.
Each game is like its own festival. Music fills the field and blares beyond the bleachers. Entire families show up, chatting up other families, and they’re waiting in long lines to buy burgers.
And then the players come out. And they stomp their cleats on the bleachers and they run down from the stands onto the field amid a background of babel.
The Dover-Sherborn High Raiders took a bus to Medfield the night of April 26. They watched the spectacle. Then they won the game, 6-3, beating the Warriors on Medfield property for the first time ever.
“You go there once a year,” said Ryan Goodall , the Raiders’ senior goalie who made unimaginable saves during the game. “You know you’re going to get a crazy routine. You just have to tune it out.”
‘We’re able to say, “That’s the best practice of the year,” after saying that the three days before.’
Dover-Sherborn’s season changed after that game; the Raiders have since won twice more to improve to 9-3 at the start of this week.
Players say concentrating in class has become a little more difficult. During practice, coach Brian McLoughlin has seen a brand-new team at times.
“We had one of our best practices’’ on Monday, he said. “A couple days were really intense. Big games like that help you out.”
“We’re a lot more focused in a way,” Goodall explained. “We had the practice of the year. I thought that a few days ago. Every single day we’re going at it. We’re able to say, ‘That’s the best practice of the year,’ after saying that the three days before.”
The real indicator was their next game after Medfield, a 13-0 win against Bellingham, which has yet to win a game this season after going winless last spring.
For a Division 3 team like Dover-Sherborn, which often plays above its size label, bringing that focus and drive from a game against Medfield to a game against Bellingham takes a special kind of commitment.
Medfield High coach John Isaf said he believes the Raiders have advanced to new heights thanks in part to their participation in the Town Pride League, a youth program created by Medfield and Duxbury seven years ago to give more kids experience and level the playing field.
“It’s definitely tough,” said Dover-Sherborn senior midfielder Matt Huemme , who has paired up with senior Brandon Jaeger to form a dynamic offensive unit. “We started off 5-0, then we go into that vacation week and we just get smoked’’ in games against Lincoln-Sudbury Regional, Winchester and Andover, he said. “Two games later it’s Medfield. So we don’t really know where we’re at.”
Coaches often say there’s always something still more difficult to accomplish. Winning their second straight Division 3 state championship would be the most logical goal for the Raiders now, but would that be more impressive than a win in Medfield?
Medfield had lost at home just one time since 2011. Since the beginning of the 2005 season, the Warriors had played 80 regular-season home games against Massachusetts teams. They won 71 of them.
“We have a routine,” said Isaf. “We like to make it a fun environment to play in.”
It’s just not much fun for the opposing team.
The Dover-Sherborn players had been so anxious about playing the Warriors that they packed their gear and boarded the team before realizing they forgot the water.
“It was the seniors’ turn, so that was on us,” said Goodall, who will play at Colorado College next season. “We’re sitting there in the back of the bus, with the maximum amount of kids on the bus. To climb through all those lacrosse bags and everything. . . You get this feeling right away that it’s going to be a bad night.”
Instead, Dover-Sherborn’s defensive unit executed a game plan, designed by often-lauded assistant coach Gene Zanella, that left the Warriors scratching their heads. Goodall was remarkable in the cage while Will Scatchard was a nightmare for opposing attackers.
But the Raiders won’t say exactly what their game plan was.
Beating the Warriors in Medfield was remarkable.
Beating the Warriors again, for the second time in one season, would be another first in school history. And it could lock up a Tri-Valley League title.
Tuesday is a circled day on at least one calendar.
Warriors still impress
Since losing to Dover-Sherborn, Medfield almost pulled off an amazing feat of its own against Duxbury last Thursday.
The Warriors (11-2) contained the Dragons to just five goals, but their offense stalled and they came up one goal short. “We thought we played well, just didn’t get a couple breaks,” Isaf said.
Behind senior Ben Cox , a shut-down defender who will play at Vermont next season, Medfield’s 3.85 goals allowed per game ranks second in Eastern Massachusetts. The Warriors have also been scoring, led by junior Matt Crowell and senior Andrew Melvin .
“We probably still haven’t gotten quite there,” Isaf said. “We played three-quarters of a good game against Duxbury. We have to play a whole game.”
Colonials on the rise
The Acton-Boxborough Regional High girls have made the leap. They’re competing with — and beating — some of the best teams in the state.
They knocked off Lincoln-Sudbury Regional, 11-9, last week before falling just short to a tough Franklin team.
The key for the Colonials — holding onto leads.
“We were up, 4-1, on Westford, same with Andover,” coach Scott Biron said of a pair of early-season losses. “But we’ve made some headway. The L-S game, we didn’t let them get back in it. We’re making some progress.”
Junior goalie Eleni Nyland along with seniors Sarah Smith (University of Connecticut) and Claire Cote (Haverford College) have impressed for the Colonials, 8-3-1 through Monday.
The Stenberg name in Needham added another milestone this week, when senior captain Maddie Stenberg notched her 400th career point in a 10-9 loss to Westwood.
Brother Will was a standout for the boys’ lacrosse team at Needham High, where father Paul is an assistant coach.
Jason Mastrodonato can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.