After his team pulled out a heart-stopping 11-10 victory over Medfield in Friday’s Division 2 state championship game, longtime Winchester boys’ lacrosse coach John Pirani stood at midfield of Quincy’s Veterans Memorial Stadium, his face glistening with a mixture of tears and rain.
Despite the emotion, Pirani snapped to attention and directed his players toward the team bus with his booming voice.
“They’re my babies,” said Pirani, who has been coaching at Winchester for 45 years, the last 30 as head coach.
“I’m all emotion. It’s really pretty special.”
Winchester (22-1) overcame an early 6-2 deficit and received a go-ahead goal from junior Ryan McCarthy with 1:33 remaining to emerge victorious in a hard-fought contest.
Pirani played for the Sachems in 1966, when Winchester became the first public school in the state to field a lacrosse program. He has coached the fathers of senior captain Jake Mabardy (3 goals, assist) and junior Charlie Ward (goal, assist), as well as his own son, Alex Pirani, the co-captain of the last Winchester team to win a state title in 2000.
With Alex Pirani and fellow 2000 co-captain Mike Kuttner in attendance, the current Sachems turned the contest around in the second half. Freshman Jeff Russo won key faceoffs, and Mabardy provided two goals and an assist to draw Winchester even, 6-6.
Medfield (20-3) retook the lead with goals from Brian Abely (4 goals, assist) and Jake Sherman (2 goals), but Pirani’s bunch never blinked.
“We just kind of found ourselves at halftime and made a couple of little adjustments,” said Pirani. “At the end of the day, what you saw in the second half was the real us.”
Grant Murray (2 goals, assist) found senior captain Harry Carpini with 1.6 seconds left in the third quarter to tie the contest, 8-8, and Winchester twice evened the contest in the fourth quarter after Medfield had jockeyed ahead.
After a couple key stops by the Sachems defense and goalie Matt Suffredini (10 saves), McCarthy dodged right and fired a low shot to the left corner past Medfield goalie Peter Barrette (8 saves), putting Winchester ahead for good.
“When you play good teams, they force you into mistakes,” said Pirani. “[Medfield] did some things to us that teams hadn’t done to us all year. But we executed in the last few minutes the way we did the whole second half, which was with resolve.”
Dover-Sherborn 7, Grafton 4 — Extra possessions added up for the Raiders.
Thanks to a dominant showing on the faceoff X from Matthew Paolatto and a stifling defense anchored by goalie Matthew Gallitano, Dover-Sherborn made its time in the offensive zone count in the D3 final at MacDowell Field on the Babson College campus.
It’s the fifth title in program history for the Raiders (18-5), and their first since 2016.
“It was a huge team effort,” said D-S senior Cam Raycroft, who helped the Raiders cause the Indians fits on their clears. “Matthew Gallitano was huge. Same with defenders Luke Wiese and Alex Thompson, and the whole defensive midfield. Just a lot of different pieces contributed. It was awesome.”
Paolatto won all 11 of his attempts on the draw, aided by the wing play of Andrew Dummer. Gallitano made six saves in the win.
Dover-Sherborn (18-5) never trailed, jumping out to a 3-0 lead by the end of the first quarter on a pair of goals from Pierce Gregory and another strike from Charlie Alfieri.
Grafton (20-3) got on the board 1:25 into the second quarter on a Colin Thornton strike, but thanks to an array of errors — both forced and unforced — on the clear, never got closer than three goals despite 13 saves, including nine in the first half, from Cole Thornton.
“The attack rides very hard and the middies do a nice job of finding their guys right away,” D-S coach Brian McLaughlin said. “We just try to make teams make a few passes and hopefully get a turnover.”
Timmy Polk also had two goals for Dover-Sherborn.
Jake Levin reported from Babson College.