READING — In his first year as the boys’ lacrosse coach at Triton Regional, Mike Rice continues to take the 17-year-old program to new heights.
On a rainy Tuesday afternoon, Rice coached his senior-laden team to a 9-6 victory in the Division 3 North semifinals at top-seeded Austin Prep, advancing the fifth-seeded Vikings to their first sectional final, where they await the winner of Wednesday’s matchup between Bishop Fenwick and Newburyport.
“The seniors have led this team from the beginning,” said Rice, a former Notre Dame star with over 25 years of experience as an assistant coach.
“I believed that we have enough talent to do this. It’s great, and we’re not done. We want to play Newburyport again, and we want another opportunity to beat them.”
In a low-scoring first half, senior goalie Jared Graf (12 saves) was immense for Triton (13-2). He made eight stops over the first two periods, while James Tatro (3 goals) and Jared Leonard (2 goals, 2 assists) led a 4-0 run for a 4-1 halftime lead.
Austin Prep (15-2) trimmed the deficit with goals from Corbin Martin and Lee Poulin, but Leonard and Tatro answered with spectacular individual goals.
“Leonard and I have been together forever,” said Tatro. “We played in youth, and we play for different clubs, but our connection is just there. Every time one of us moves, the other knows where we’re going to go, and that plays a big role. But our whole offense together just bonds very well.”
Senior attack CJ Howland and junior pole Kyle Bouley scored to push the Triton lead to 8-3 late in the fourth quarter, which proved vital when Poulin, Quinn Meissner, and Martin each scored in the final two minutes for a nail-biting finish.
Now a program that finished 3-15 in 2018 is headed to the sectional final.
“It’s great to see the program grow,” said Rice. “We want to be a team like [Austin Prep], like Newburyport, or like Ipswich. We want to be a perennially good team and hopefully this will help us get there.”