No. 20 Walpole 11, No. 11 Dover-Sherborn 7
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WALPOLE -- Consider this the start of the "Make Them Believers" tour for the Walpole boys' lacrosse team.
Sure the Rebels carried an undefeated record into Saturday's matinée with Dover-Sherborn, but Walpole's competition boasted a mere 21-41 combined record and there was reason to question whether the Rebels were for real with only two wins over teams with records better than .500.
The pundits were licking their chops when visiting Dover-Sherborn scored four of the game's first five goals, but Walpole responded by scoring 10 of the next 11 to build a six-goal advantage early in the fourth quarter and emerge with a rock-solid 11-7 triumph at Turco Memorial Field.
It was the perfect start of a rigorous stretch for the Rebels, who travel to meet Bay State Conference juggernaut Wellesley Tuesday before a trek to dance with Needham on May 7.
"We took care of our first seven, but we knew coming into this one that today would be a good test," said Walpole coach Jason Andalo. "This is a good win for our program. I'm sure some people out there said, 'Yeah, Walpole is undefeated, but the level of competition hasn't been great.' We beat a very good D-S team that should do well in the state tournament at the Division 3 level. It gives us a little confidence, but not an arrogance."
Andalo said his team would enjoy this one for the rest of the weekend, then come back ready to work Monday in advance of the Wellesley showdown. He'll have to nitpick to find flaws in this effort. Here's why:
- First comeback -- Walpole (8-0) hadn't trailed this season, but staring at a 4-1 deficit with 10:16 to play in the first half, the Rebels proceeded to limit D-S (7-3) to only one goal over the next 27 minutes. Walpole led, 6-5, at the intermission and 10-5 heading to the fourth quarter.
- It worked! -- The biggest goal in that run might have been Davis Butts's goal with 28.4 seconds to play in the first half. Andalo said the Rebels ran a play that hadn't worked all season, but they caught D-S in a zone and Davis popped a goal from the slot off a pretty feed by Mike White.
- Desire -- Walpole simply wanted it more after the first quarter. Butts minds well have put a "sale pending" sign near the faceoff circle as he took ownership there, while scrappy midfielders like super sophomore Ryan Izzo (he of the Globe's Division 2 football Player of the Year fame) seemed to vacuum up any loose balls on the ground.
"In that second quarter, we were winning ground balls and started to capitalize on offense," said Andalo.
D-S coach Brian McLaughlin added, "We stopped moving the ball and we tried to get a little too individual. They have Davis Butts, and we don't have that type of player that can create individually. We got away from the team effort."
Dover-Sherborn's Alex Paganelli potted his second goal of the game to put the Raiders out front, 4-1, with 10:16 to go in the second quarter, but Walpole struck for three goals in a span of just 2:27 to even the game with 5:24 to go in the half.
Butts and Leo Ajemian -- who both scored four goals on the day overall -- sandwiched tallies around a D-S score to send Walpole into the break up, 6-5. But it was all Walpole in the third quarter. The Rebels scored four times, including a three-goal blizzard in a 30-second span starting with 1:17 to go that made it 10-5 heading to the final frame.
Butts work in the faceoff circle simply prevented D-S from clawing its way back into the game. The Raiders popped the final two goals of the game to trim their final deficit.
Walpole's Greg Nash finished with two scores, while Paganelli, Chris Whelan, and Geoff Akie each scored twice for Dover-Sherborn.
D-S must right this ship quickly as, after a matchup with Ashland, the Raiders host Medfield in a rematch of a double-overtime thriller that the Warriors took earlier this season.
Beyond that game, D-S -- a Division 3 sectional finalist last year -- plays only one team that entered today's competition with a record better than .500 and that's the final game of the year against Franklin. Coach McLaughlin believes his team will rebound and find the form that had it take top squads like Medfield and Cohasset to the wire.
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