A brutal end-of-season schedule has set up the No. 12 Silver Lake boys’ soccer team with some tough opposition that should serve as a solid test for a team with aspirations of going deep into the postseason.
Postponements have lined the Lakers up with a string of games versus ranked opponents, including No. 15 Hingham and No. 8 Canton. Kicking off the stretch was a rematch of last year’s Division 1 South semifinals against No. 9 Weymouth, which the Lakers lost 1-0 on Saturday -- their first defeat of the season.
“It’s a mixed blessing as it gets us ready for the tournament,” said head coach Dan Correia. “These are the types of teams we will have to play in order to advance.”
Silver Lake (8-0-4, 11-1-2) came into the season having lost 13 seniors and 8 starters from a squad that tied for the Patriot League title and made a deep tournament run before losing to Weymouth last year. Yet heading into the season there wasn’t too much cause for concern as a new set of leaders quickly emerged to take the reigns and lead the Lakers towards another successful season.
“You don’t really know what you have coming into a year after losing that many players,” Correia said. “But we always have the talent year in and year out to compete for a league title because our depth up-and-down the levels of the program has always been a strength of ours.”
The Lakers present a host of problems for their opposition with a completely balanced attack on both sides of the ball. The offense has relied on a plethora of scorers to pummel foes, scoring an average of more than four goals per game.
Seniors Andrew Chenard and Charlie Lawson have led the attack with nine goals apiece and forwards Jake Monroe and Paul Beatty have found the back of the net seven times apiece. Senior Brian Bachelder has also added six goals to the cause.
“It’s been a very balanced unit and some teams have had some troubles with our offense because we have so many different scorers,” Correia said. “They are a very unselfish bunch as well.”
Senior captain Kevin Ballerini stands as the lone returning defensive starter and alongside junior centerback Colin Grindle, they form a legitimate lock-down duo that has made things much easier on the team’s goaltenders with a stifling style of defense.
“Kevin and Colin shut things down back there,” Correia said. “Our keeper hasn’t had to face many chances because of how solid the defense has been.”
Outside backs Josh Ventura and Sean Hurlburt have provided additional defensive assurance and have helped to solidify the back unit which has held opponents to only eight goals this season.
“They have been solid in blocking shots and pushing them wide instead of to the middle of the field,” Correia said. “They’ve also shown a lot of improvement with set pieces and clearing those.”
In his first season as a starter, junior keeper Sam Ballerini (Kevin Ballerini's brother) has also come up big when called upon, holding opponents to a 0.57 goals against average in 14 games between the pipes, including seven shutouts.
“Every single game we have a chance to win,” said Correia, now in his fifth season as head coach of Silver Lake.
With tough competition closing out their schedule, the Lakers will look to use these games as a barometer as to where they stand against other top-ranked competition.
No game looms larger than Monday’s Patriot League battle against Hingham, which could ultimately decide the league champion.
“They possess the ball really well,” said Correia of the Harbormen. “They are a very smart team and they change the point of attack.”
The two teams tied 1-1 earlier in the month and Hingham can take the Patriot League title with a win. Silver Lake needs a win on Monday and another on Thursday against North Quincy to shore up their third league title.
“We have a lot of speed up top,” Correia said. “So we’ll look to utilize that against them.”
The Lakers are confident that they can compete with the best teams around and this late season scheduling should help them gear up for whatever the tournament throws at them.
“Weymouth is one of the best teams in the state and we now know we can play with them,” Correia said. “We have a shot to make another deep run in the postseason.”
For now, Silver Lake will look to check off another goal before they can think about the tournament.
“They set smalls goals along the way,” said Correia of his team. “First was to qualify for the postseason, second is to win the Patriot League title, third is to improve our seeding and then we’ll take it from there.”
Games of the Week
No. 12 Silver Lake at No. 15 Hingham, Monday, 3:30 p.m. — The top two teams in the Patriot League’s Keenan Division will get another crack at each other after a 1-1 tie in their first meeting, with heavy league title implications on the line.
No. 3 Winchester at No. 13 Lexington, Monday, 3:45 p.m. — This one is always highly anticipated as Lexington will be looking to avenge their 2-0 September loss to the Sachems and tighten things up in the Middlesex Large.
Brighton at East Boston, Tuesday, 3:30 p.m. — A possible City Championship preview showcases two of the highest scoring offenses in EMass.
No. 1 Lincoln-Sudbury at Westford, Wednesday, 4 p.m. — The top-ranked Warriors will look to remain undefeated in in their last major test of the season.
No. 15 Brookline at No. 17 Framingham, Thursday, 4 p.m. — The Flyers will be looking to position themselves atop the Bay State Carey division, which will not be easy against the disciplined Warriors who are 3-0-2 over their last five games.
Players of the Week
Chris Flight, Dover-Sherborn — The senior scored 4 goals and added two assists as the No. 4 Raiders outscored their opponents 18-0 over three games.
Mark Blahnik, Wayland — The senior captain made the switch to sweeper and has been an instant defensive difference maker as the Warriors have held three straight opponents scoreless since the move was made.
Conner McCormick, Oliver Ames — The senior forward scored 2 goals and had an assist in leading the No. 19 Tigers to two wins and a tie against No. 8 Canton in a crucial Hockomock League battle.
Devin Devoy, Bishop Feehan — The senior forward scored 5 goals on the week, including 4 versus Foxboro, to give him 13 on the season.
Nick Keddie, Cardinal Spellman — In three shutout wins the senior midfielder scored 3 goals and had 5 assists as the No. 7 Cardinals remain undefeated.
Several reporters and editors contribute updates, news and analysis to the High School Sports Blog.
- Bob Holmes: A Reading resident (Go Rockets!) and Boston College graduate, Holmes is the Boston Globe High School Sports Editor. We remind you now that his weekly picks are often made in jest so everyone just calm down when he picks against Everett for 11 straight weeks. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeHolmes.
- Craig Larson: A native of West Springfield (Leo Durocher anyone? Tim Daggett?) and Curry College graduate (a proud Colonel!), Larson is the sports editor for the Globe's regional sections: South, West and North, as well as a frequent contributor on the college beat. Abington to Xaverian: it all starts with the schools. Have a compelling story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeLars.
- Zuri Berry: Berry attended the same high school as sports legends O.J. Simpson and Joe DiMaggio. (Guess which one is his hero.) He's a South Boston resident (formerly of Eastie) and the editor of the High School Sports blog as well as the go-to-guy for everything high school sports on Boston.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GlobeSchools for all of the latest updates.
Then there are our winter correspondents:
- Emily McCarthy | @EmilyMcCahthy | BPS correspondent
- Jake Fischer | @GlobeFischer | Boys basketball
- Michelle Fenelon | @michfenelon | Girls basketball
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Boys hockey
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls hockey
To reach the high school sports department, e-mail email@example.com.