It’s been an offseason of unfamiliarity for the Duxbury boys’ lacrosse program.
For a little over a decade — 11 years to be exact — the road to Division 1 glory in Massachusetts went through the Green Dragons, who reached the state final every year during that span, winning it nine times. But that all changed last season when Duxbury failed to advance past the first round, losing to BC High in overtime, 10-9.
That didn’t sit too well around town.
“The alumni around here can be pretty rough on the class that doesn’t win the title,” said coach Chris Sweet. “So this year’s senior class really wants to redeem themselves. They’re taking nothing for granted.”
Although it lost several starters from last year’s squad, Duxbury still returns plenty of talent. All-Scholastic goalie Nicholas Marrocco, who is fresh off captaining the hockey team to an appearance in the Super 8, returns to man the cage for the Dragons.
Meanwhile, Xaverian is coming off an improbable run to its first Division 1 state title, which featured upsets of second-seeded Needham and top-seeded Lincoln-Sudbury.
The Hawks’ title defense is boosted by the return of All-Scholastic midfielder Jack Wheeler (42 goals, 16 assists). The senior was the team’s postseason hero, netting 10 goals in four playoff games.
However, Xaverian won’t sneak up on anyone this season.
“It’s going to be different,” said coach Tim Gardner. “Last year, we had that chip on our shoulder with everyone considering us the underdog. Now, we have to learn to deal with the exposure and that teams will come at us more aggressively.”
The Hawks found that out from the jump, as BC High gave them all they could handle in the season opener last Tuesday. Xaverian won, 14-10, but conceded six goals to Eagles’ All-Scholastic attackman Patrick Cronin. Along with Cronin (42 goals, 24 assists), BC High returns several key starters who make the Eagles a threat in Division 1.
Elsewhere in the division, All-Scholastic senior midfielder Michael Panepinto (44 goals, 20 assists) will look to follow in his older brother Nico’s footsteps and lead an experienced Needham squad — 21 returning varsity players — back to the state final for the second time in three years. Last year’s runner-up, Lincoln-Sudbury, will look to make a return trip despite the loss of 15 seniors.
In Division 2, Medfield’s third Eastern Mass. crown in the last four years was overshadowed by a loss to undefeated Longmeadow in the state final.
Still, having lost only five seniors and returning nine starters, including All-Scholastic midfielder Matthew Crowell (56 goals, 15 assists), the Warriors should once again be competitive. The schedule almost guarantees as much, with games against Xaverian, Duxbury, Dover-Sherborn, Longmeadow, and two-time defending Rhode Island state champ Laselle Academy on tap.
“We will play five games, 25 percent of our schedule, against defending state champions,” coach John Isaf said. “So we should be battle-tested come June.”
Hingham, which lost in overtime to Medfield in last year’s Eastern Mass. final, should challenge again, led by All-Scholastic midfielder Caleb Brodie. Dual County League powers Concord-Carlisle and Wayland could also be in the mix.
In Division 3, Dover-Sherborn will chase a three-peat.
Despite the loss of significant firepower on offense, the Raiders will again look to defense to be its strong suit. New goalie Jack Fontaine should help the Raiders maintain their stinginess — the team conceded a state-low 4.3 goals per game last season.
Runner-up Cohasset, led by coach James Beaudoin, could also be a player.
The Skippers have clobbered their first three opponents by a combined score of 43-12. With 22 returning players and just four fresh faces on the roster, the Skippers are hungry to finish what they started last year.
Cohasset only has to look to last year’s BC High and Xaverian teams to realize that anything can happen come June.
“I’ve been in Massachusetts for 12 years now,” said BC High coach Tim Kelly. “[Lacrosse] has never been at a higher level. It’s just not Duxbury, there’s a lot more talent across the state. I think there are a lot of teams with potential to win it.”