Erin Cash is new to the Dual Valley Conference, but the Concord-Carlisle first-year coach still hears what people around the league are saying about her girls’ lacrosse team this year.
Over the offseason, the Patriots lost longtime head coach Paul Morrison and graduated seven senior starters, including their leading goal scorer and distributor, Payton Vaughn , who now starts at Yale as a freshman.
“People might look at Concord-Carlisle this year as a rebuilding program,” Cash said. “I’ve heard that a bunch. We had a conversation today — rebuilding what? There’s no such thing as rebuilding.”
Cash, who played at Boston College, is an architect of sorts in the regional lacrosse community. At Brooks, she turned a sub-.500 squad into back-to-back-to-back ISL champions. When she moved to Thayer Academy, she added two more ISL titles with undefeated seasons in 2010 and 2012.
After spending four years away from the high school scene to complete her Certificate of Graduate Studies and raise her four children, she’s now tasked with constructing another title contender around junior Fallon Vaughn , Payton’s younger sister, and a supporting cast consisting mostly of underclassmen.
“You’re building,” she told her Patriots ahead of their rivalry game at Lincoln-Sudbury. “It’s going to be up to you what you build.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Cash had a curveball thrown in her plans: C-C would be without Fallon due to illness. What’s worse, the Patriots were already without goaltender Natalie Slade, who was away competing as the No. 1-ranked freeskier in the nation among 15-18-year-olds.
Without their starting goalie and All-American midfielder, the Patriots found themselves trailing 6-2 early in the second half. Even though C-C rallied for three-straight goals to trim the deficit to one, the Warriors pulled away late to secure a 9-6 win over the shorthanded Patriots (2-2, 2-1 DVC).
Fortunately, the sickness that sidelined Cash’s best player won’t spoil her first season at C-C. Back in her prep school days, an early loss in league play often cost her a shot at the overall championship.
“Usually you have to go undefeated to win the league,” Cash said of the ISL. “And there’s no tournament, so there’s no second chance.”
“I had a game once when I was at Brooks where my stud was sick and she couldn’t play, and that was it — over,” she recalled. “I’m fired up to see [Lincoln-Sudbury] again.”
The blueprint for success at a public school particularly favors Cash’s style of coaching. While researching sports psychology at BU, she became fascinated with optimism and how to learn from the last play without dwelling on it.
Focusing on the future instead of the past is easier, of course, when the Patriots can always look forward to the Division 1 East sectional tournament in June.
“My teams are always playing their best at the end of the season,” she said. “They’re good now, but by the end of May, beginning of June, they’re going to be creative and confident and hard to stop. So I’m fired up to see how far these guys can get in June.”
How far the Patriots go will depend on how far Fallon, who’s verbally committed to join her older sister at Yale next season, can carry them. Fallon led C-C in scoring as a freshman and put together a stellar sophomore campaign last year. This season, however, will be her first without Payton by her side
“Everyone knew how amazing [Fallon] was last year because she got face-guarded a bunch,” Cash said. “But I don’t think vocally she was needed to be a big leader last year because that role was very well done by her sister and the other upperclassmen.
When Cash gives Fallon advice on how to step into that new leadership role, she speaks from experience. The youngest of five, Cash played lacrosse and basketball with her older sister before becoming a bonafide star herself.
“I was just talking to her the other day about, ‘Now it’s your turn,’” Cash said. “It’s a big switch. It’s a big change for people who just do their job to all of a sudden be telling people how to do theirs.”
If C-C can develop the young talent surrounding Fallon, and the star junior can help them execute on the field, the Patriots might make the leap from perennial contender to Div. 1 East champion sooner than expected.
“They’re great individual players right now and what I’m bringing is a deep understanding of how hard you have to work to get over the hump of just being good,” Cash said. “You don’t want to be good—you want to be awesome. You want people to remember that game when they played you.”
■ First-year Hingham head coach Carla Farkes has implemented a new approach that she feels puts her players in the best position to succeed.
“I wanted to put in an offensive system that includes everyone, versus being focused on one or two players,” Farkes said. “It creates a more fun environment when everyone is contributing, and it puts less pressure on specific players to have to score.”
It’s working well so far, as Hingham produced 20 and 19 goals in its first two games. With three lefties Elizabeth Hennessey, Audrey Ehler, and Audrey Cole leading the way, the Harborwomen present an unusual challenge for teams that aren’t accustomed to facing lefties.
“This gives us change-up options on the draw, creates offensive threats on both sides of the field, and allows us to have a more-balanced attack,” said Farkes, whose team (2-1) suffered its first setback of the season in a 14-3 loss to Norwell on Wednesday.
■ Needham coach Paula Kelley has the rare luxury of fielding a staring lineup with nine seniors — Maeve Barker, Callie Hem, Chloe Newman, Abby Dateo, Dana Fernandez, Eileen Manning, Elizabeth Phalen, Brooke Riley, and Lexi Schmalz.
After a tough, 11-9 loss to Walpole, the Rockets responded with a 12-9 victory over Cohasset on Monday.
“It was a total team effort,” Kelley said. “We clicked on all cylinders.”
■ Lincoln-Sudbury senior and Williams commit Meaghan McCarthy suffered an ACL injury in the fall, but now she’s taking on a strong leadership role from the sideline as a captain this spring.
■ Thursday, Walpole at Wellesley, 3:45 p.m. — This is a rematch of last year’s state final, which Wellesley won, 7-5. It should tell us a lot about both teams, and it’s possible the second-ranked Raiders and No. 4 Porkers could see each other at the finish line again this year.
■ Thursday, Wayland at Lincoln-Sudbury, 4 p.m. — No. 10 Wayland (3-0) will face its toughest test yet when it travels to No. 9 L-S (3-0) for a league showdown between two undefeated teams.
■ Friday, North Andover at Lowell, 7 p.m. — Both teams have shown potential to start the year, and they’ll battle under the lights at Cawley Stadium.
■ Saturday, Notre Dame (Hingham) at Longmeadow, 10:30 a.m. – The top-ranked Cougars (4-0) will make the long drive to Longmeadow to face their latest of many tests.
■ Monday, Duxbury at Needham, 11 a.m. – The No. 14 Dragons will try to keep Needham’s senior-laden lineup in check, while the fifth-ranked Rockets will attempt to slow down a team that scored 15-plus goals in two of its first three games.
Riley Overend can be reached at email@example.com. Trevor Hass also contributed to this story.