It has not been the easiest of seasons for the local lacrosse teams. Both girls and boys Manchester Essex Regional High School teams are playing for the first time since 2019, then starting their season later than usual due to bumping up against the end of the Fall II sports season.
Once the spring season started in earnest, there were some bumpy roads to navigate as well.
“We were shut down for about a week-and-a-half due to covid concerns only two weeks into the season, which had already started later than normal on April 26,” explains ME boys lacrosse coach Jon Siderewicz. “A few of our games either got cancelled or rescheduled, which made the practice schedule surrounding those days difficult. I believe to date, we have practiced a total of 15 days this season, and with three games remaining this week, only three more practices in the season potentially. We have also been having injury after injury this year: ligament injuries, concussions, even season ending surgeries. This has definitely presented its own challenges, but the other players have stepped up in big ways for us.”
“In some ways this has been a very lop-sided season,” says ME girls lacrosse coach Nan Gorton. “Some teams are rebuilding after a crazy year that really – sadly – negatively affected the young people throughout the league. We are seeing programs struggling with numbers throughout the league, so this year was about getting everyone back up and going and supporting all the girls, on all the teams, get back out there.”
Despite all this, both teams are still in the hunt for a post-season berth: The girls’ team was 4-3 at the start of the week, lost by one goal against Ipswich in the season opener, and then to Pentucket in overtime later in the season; the boys are just under .500 at 3-5, and need to win out in their last three games to qualify for the playoffs.
In order for the girls’ team to close out the season strong, they will look to defeat the Generals on Senior Night on June 8, then attempt to pick up a win in a crucial matchup with Ipswich on June 12 at home – Manchester Essex lost to the Tigers in a close, 9-8 contest to open the season. The Hornets then close out the regular season with Georgetown on June 14.
“As for what’s next, we have our chance again against Ipswich, which is always a tough battle,” says Gorton. “It’s the type of game for which you get nervous and excited all season.”
The boys team picked up wins over Amesbury and picked up a third as a result of a forfeit, and now need to finish the season with wins over Hamilton-Wenham (June 8), Lynnfield (June 10) and Ipswich (June 12). There have been encouraging signs this season that they could accomplish this feat.
“Our game against Newburyport was on the way to be a serious blowout in favor of the Clippers,” explains Siderewicz. “At 14-2 after the third quarter, we had built some momentum and outscored them in the 4th quarter, 5-1. I don't know where that came from, but it was something enough to help us get our first win next game versus Amesbury. We got punched in the mouth against North Reading -- which was a critical game for us -- then bounced back with another strong win against Amesbury on the road.”
Meanwhile, the aforementioned loss to Ipswich in the season opener was a turning point for the girls’ team.
“We lost by one goal [against Ipswich], which was scored with 34 seconds remaining in the game,” explains Gorton. “That got us to quickly come together as a team. It got our newer players to see what was facing them in varsity level play and it got our veterans to step up, as they missed a year of play and went from being underclassmen, to leaders.”
Gorton credits her roster of 17 players for making that leap thanks to their effort and leadership. Captains Lily Athanas and GG Huet set the tone as team leaders. The defense is anchored by senior Grace Gist, and Ella Chaffe and Mechi O’Neil – a pair of freshmen – have been important in the midfield. Bradlee Brooks has been a key member of the roster as well.
“Truly, we have talent and strength all over the field,” says Gorton. “Hadley Levendusky controls the draw at the whistle and adds to the force of the defense. Wrede Charlton, Amelia Donnellan, Gabbi D’Andrea solidify the defense, which is a very tough system to play. On attack, Ceci Mastendino, Emma Fitzgerald, Faith Burroughs, Sophia Barett, Paige Garlitz, Meyer Gist and Amy Vytopilova work together to put the ball in the back of the net.”
For the boys’ team, Siderewicz points to the contributions made by seniors Jack McFadden, Ryan Crompton, Hawk Hamor and Sam Rice as being instrumental in the team’s development and success so far. Junior Hayden Brady has been strong in goal, and Andrew Amigo has provided leadership on defense. Also of note has been the play of Mac Edgarton, who has amassed eight goals and four assists at attack.
“He has been finding his groove well since his breakout performance against Newburyport,” Siderewicz says of Edgarton. “He simply wants the ball, and when he gets it, he makes things happen. His dodging presence [puts] a huge target on him, allowing other guys to shine off ball and get their looks. I'm impressed with his game thus far, and the way he is finding his role has benefitted him and the team, especially for the upcoming years.”
Whether or not the playoffs will be in sight at the end of the season for either team might pale when compared to the fact that lacrosse was indeed played this spring, a full year after the season was cancelled before it even started due to COVID.
“The goal is to take one game at a time, one play at a time, and getting better every day,” says Siderewicz. “We started the season 0-5, but every day is a challenge and they have risen to their challenges in this latter part of the year. This season's goal was not necessarily to make the playoffs. The goal was to get better each day and play hard next to 40-something players that make up a singular unique family, playing at a high level of competition and having a good time learning the great game of lacrosse. We were all fortunate to have a season this year, and it was really about the players who got to be a part of it.”