Dylan Gardner is the starting long-stick midfielder and a key member of the faceoff unit for the Xaverian lacrosse team.
The 6-foot-1-inch, 195-pound junior from Newton played an integral role in a season-opening win over Walpole and an impressive 8-3 victory over defending Division 1 South champion BC High.
But even being on the field at this point is a major accomplishment for Gardner.
After committing to Michigan in the fall of his freshman year, he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament to his right knee in the first game of the season that spring.
Back on the field last April, he suffered a broken left fibula in a collision with a Lincoln-Sudbury player in the Hawks’ fourth game of the season .
When Gardner tried to return from that injury last summer, he was derailed — forced to undergo surgery on his right meniscus.
But he was able to start this season after a lengthy rehab.
“Any time you go through two major surgeries like Dylan has, mentally that takes a huge toll on you,” said Xaverian senior defenseman Sean Nizolek . “I know that Dylan’s been working his butt off training and it amazes me how he came back the first day of practice like he hasn’t missed a beat.”
Xaverian lacrosse has been a part of Gardner’s life for as long as he can remember. His father, Tim, is now in his 19th year as head coach, so his 17-year-old son has always been part of the program.
“When I was younger, I would always go to the games and I kind of grow up with the players,” said Gardner. “It was really cool seeing all the tradition and program’s success when they won the state championship in 2013. My dad was right there with me, which was really cool.”
Tim Gardner played defense at Williams College. Living with an experienced player and coach helped Gardner learn the intricacies of the game at an early age.
“[Dylan] has grown up around the sport and his IQ is high,” said Tim Gardner. “Watching films with me and talking about situations in car rides . . . things like that have gone into making him a good [long-stick midfielder].”
And while they might get into the occasional spat about plays on the field, the Gardners maintain a healthy father-son relationship outside of the sport.
“It’s been great,” said Tim Gardner. “He understands that there are different roles with me as a coach, me as a parent, and me as a teacher. We’ve been able to separate those different aspects and we can have different conversations on different levels.”
Xaverian has advanced to at least the sectional quarterfinals in five consecutive seasons, thanks in part to Tim Gardner putting together one of the toughest schedules in the state.
The Hawks (3-1) are in the midst of an incredibly difficult stretch, which began Friday with a 15-9 loss to three-time defending Division 1 state champion Lincoln-Sudbury.
After Monday night’s visit from Duxbury, the Hawks host Division 2 power Medfield Wednesday and travel to Needham Saturday for a third consecutive tilt against Top-10 teams in the Globe’s rankings.
But Tim Gardner wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I have no interest in being undefeated as a team,” said the coach. “I don’t think anybody learns from that. We want to be a good playoff team and that comes from having the confidence you gain from playing the best and seeing all types of situations.”
Just as he’s teaching his team that lacrosse can be about more than just wins and losses, Tim Gardner hopes that his son is growing up while battling his way through adversity.
“I think [Dylan] has learned that there’s a lot more to life than being a lacrosse player,” said Tim. “It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be where he is and he’s learned now that you need to cherish the moments you have on the field, because they won’t always be there.”
■ Now in its ninth year, the Coaches’ Cup is one of a number of school vacation week tournaments, but the most notable. The Cup rotates seedings and host sites among the eight participating teams.
On Tuesday, Concord-Carlisle will host the first day with games being played simultaneously on two turf fields. At 10 a.m., the host Patriots will face reigning Division 2 state champion Hingham (now in Division 1) and Wellesley will play Winchester. At noon, Lincoln-Sudbury takes on Andover, while Dover-Sherborn does battle with North Andover.
The winners will face off in the semifinals Thursday at Lincoln-Sudbury and the Cup will be awarded after the final Saturday afternoon at Andover.
■ The 11th annual Chowda Cup will begin Tuesday at Foxborough High. The hosts, along with Falmouth, Scituate, Mansfield, Catholic Memorial, Westwood, Norwell, and Hanover make up the field. The semifinals will be played at Norwell Thursday and the tournament final is Saturday at Falmouth.
■ St. John’s Prep will host the first round of the Creators Crosse Tournament on Thursday. Created by Lexington coach Dave Walsh, the tournament will feature first-round matchups between Prep and Walpole as well as Lexington and Franklin. The winners will meet at Lexington for the championship Saturday at 7 p.m.
Players of the week
■ Will Abbott, Hopkinton – With five goals, three assists, and hard-nosed defense, the senior midfielder led the Hillers to their third straight victory over Tri-Valley League powerhouse Medfield on Wednesday night.
■ Jake Antonucci, Westwood – The senior attack netted six goals with two assists in the home opener against Holliston last Monday and added six more goals in a 9-8 overtime win over Acton-Boxborough Thursday.
■ Jake and Will Davis, Franklin – Will, a junior goalie, made 16 saves, while his sophomore brother Jake netted three goals in a 9-7 win at Newton North Thursday.
■ Seamus Fagan, Lincoln-Sudbury – Stepping in for graduated All-America goalie Trevor VanLeer, the senior delivered 13 saves in a 15-9 win over Xaverian Friday.
■ Kevin Swenson, Ipswich – The senior attack paced the Tigers with three goals in a 10-3 win over Newburyport Wednesday and scored three more goals in a 11-10 win over North Reading Friday.
Games to watch
■ Tuesday, Reading at BC High, noon – UMass commits Mike Tobin, Jack Geiger
■ Wednesday, Grafton at Cohasset, 3 p.m. – In a potential Division 3 state title preview, the Skippers host a Grafton squad that fell in last year’s final, 8-7, to Ipswich.
■ Thursday, Walpole at St. John’s Prep, 11 a.m. – The Eagles host a talented Walpole squad in the opening game of the Creators Crosse Tournament.
■ Friday, Longmeadow at Billerica, 7 p.m. – Bentley University opens its facilities for this meeting between Western Mass. power Longmeadow and Billerica, who has dropped down to Division 2.
■ Saturday, Xaverian at Needham, 7 p.m. – The Hawks close out a brutal week on their schedule with a tough test against BU-bound attack Jason Child and Needham.Nate Weitzer can be reached at email@example.com.