With 10 days or fewer available for boys’ lacrosse teams to run tryouts, practices, and implement basic concepts ahead of their first games in the condensed 2021 MIAA spring season, programs with a familiar tradition have a leg up.
Medfield — a Tri-Valley League power with eight state titles since 2004 — is drawing upon a coaching staff comprised almost entirely of former players and alumni.
For 10-year head coach John Isaf, coaches that grew up playing lacrosse in Medfield from the youth level through high school and beyond have become the glue that binds his program together. And that cohesion has never been more important, with members of the Class of 2022 seeing their first varsity action after their sophomore season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Having former players that know the system, and know the kids, I’d like to think that coaching provides continuity with the standards and sense of obligation to the values of our program,” said Isaf.
“This will be the fewest practices we’ve ever had before our first game, so we’ll simplify things and hopefully guys who have been working hard on their own and in a one-on-one setting will be able to pick things up fast and show their lacrosse IQ.”
Isaf’s main defensive assistant, Blake Frasca, won two state titles at Medfield before graduating in 2014 and playing at RPI. Medfield’s offensive assistant, Sam Hurley, graduated in 2015 and became a three-time Division 2 All-American at Bentley.
Freshman coach and assistant Tyler Hagan is another 2014 graduate, and Jack Henry Vara is a 2016 grad who won three state titles and was twice named All-American. Now a junior at Princeton, the faceoff specialist [FOGO] is taking the semester off to coach at his alma mater and mentor Medfield’s current faceoff dynamo, TJ Casey.
“[Vara’s] knowledge of all the right techniques and counters, it’s incredible to have a source like that right in front of me,” said Casey, a UMass Amherst recruit who first met Vara as a wide-eyed fifth grader participating in a local clinic.
“We have such a strong history of FOGOs coming through Medfield and almost every one starts up a [coaching] clinic. That just makes other lacrosse players wanna take those faceoffs and I think that contributes to the tradition.”
Vara isn’t the only former player looking to give back at Medfield. Isaf said several alumni have approached him about volunteering, including 2020 captain Jack McCordic, an attack at MIT who plans to volunteer when the semester ends.
“My dream when I got into this was to see former players come back and coach,” said Isaf. “Now I have more and more guys who want to jump in. For me it’s a reinforcement, or affirmation, that guys are really invested in our program. So to me it feels like our culture is sustained over 10 to 15 years and shows that guys really care about what we’re doing.”
Many of Medfield’s seniors were on the field when the Warriors fell, 12-10, in a thrilling Division 2 state final at Quincy Veterans Memorial Stadium in June 2019. While members of the class of 2020 never got a chance to avenge that loss, captains Jake Grenon, Sam Hedges, Rob Spaeth, and Michael Vachon will have a chance to win a state title thanks in no small part to the lobbying efforts of the Medfield lacrosse community.
Along with lacrosse players from Lincoln-Sudbury, Concord-Carlisle, and the Needham boys’ volleyball team, those captains exhorted the MIAA to consider holding state tournaments this spring.
The association rewarded those athletes who lost everything last spring, and now the Warriors can look to add another trophy to their storied tradition.
“Losing in the last minute of the state championship in 2019 and having a lot of guys back and being primed to have a good shot to get back there, and miss out on that, was really a painful sacrifice,” said Isaf.
“We were preparing to practice and play with the same standards, whether the end of our season was a TVL championship or a state tournament. But the guys jumped in [to lobby the MIAA] and I think they learned a great life lesson about making sure your voice is heard.”