NEEDHAM — Gaining possession straight off the faceoff X has been an issue all season long for the Needham boys’ lacrosse team.
With the play the Rockets have received off the wing from Jimmy Kenney and Jack Curran, it’s hardly mattered. Despite ceding 16 of 21 draws at the faceoff X in Tuesday’s Division 1 first-round matchup vs. No. 20 Natick, 13th-seeded Needham earned a convincing 16-6 win, completing a season sweep of their Bay State Conference-rival Redhawks.
“They ambush better than most guys,” Needham coach Dave Wainwright said. “Their chemistry is so important and timing is of the essence. They do it better than most. You can see it from the possessions taken from these guys, they get it back within seconds.”
Kenney and Curran made life miserable for Natick (11-8), rendering a dominant showing from Ray Gilkes at the X moot. The poles combined to cause nearly 10 turnovers in the first half, helping Needham (16-3) to a 5-1 lead after 12 minutes and a 9-3 edge at the break.
Sean Reilly (five goals, one assist) served as the primary beneficiary for the Rockets, tallying the game’s first goal 2:05 in, adding another with seven seconds to go in the first quarter, and netting a nifty behind-the-back shot midway through the second quarter.
Natick coach Nate Kittler wasn’t surprised by the play of Needham’s wings, nor the 10-man ride the Rockets have been able to successfully deploy against the Redhawks for a generation.
“We’ve been trying to do it for 10 years,” Kittler said. “Kenney and Curran are just so dominant. It’s amazing the effect the two of them have on the outcome of the game.”
Spencer Chapman (four goals, one assist) also flashed for Needham.
Tuesday’s loss marked the end of an era for Natick, with Kittler coaching his son, Brady, and nephew, Jay, both seniors, for the final time.
“Not how we wanted to end our career together, but they both had great careers,” Nate Kittler said. “It’s been an absolute joy coaching them since youth and all the way up, and their classmates.”
Brady Kittler had a goal and an assist.
Needham, which draws fourth-seeded Franklin in the next round, had eked out a 7-6 road win over Natick on May 4.
Division 1 State
St. John’s Prep 14, Barnstable 3 — Utilizing a balanced attack, the top seed Eagles (18-1) advanced through the first round behind three goals from Jimmy Ayers and two goals and an assist from Jake Vana.
Division 1 State
Acton-Boxborough 10, Needham 9 — Caroline McBride was a force up front, notching five goals and three assists, and Keira Baglio (three goals) and Alexis Thermidor (two goals) did the rest for the 12th-seeded Revolution (11-6) in a first-round win.
Division 2 State
Duxbury 16, Danvers 8 — Sydney Ecker notched five goals, Ellie Wall added four, and Maggie Slimbaugh had three to lead the No. 3 Dragons (16-5) over No. 30 Danvers in the Round of 32.
Division 4 State
Mt. Greylock 17, Cape Cod Academy 16 — With seconds remaining, Lexi Politis buried the winner for the No. 8 Mounties (19-2) against No. 9 Cape Cod Academy (11-9) to earn a spot in the third round.