NLF 2018 Coverage
2019 Fighting Clams
Overview: This Clam squad represented the best cross-section of elite, healthy Clams we could gather at this late date in the summer. While injuries prevented us from being at our very best, this was still the best cross-section of our oldest Clam class that we’ve fielded in the summer of 2018. And for three-quarters of the event, they absolutely played like it.
Day one began with a surprisingly comfortable win vs. the always-powerful Long Island Express. Ethan Barnard (Deerfield) (7 wins & 0 losses) and Gavin Bergeron (Littleton HS/UVM) (4 wins & 3 losses) controlled possession time for the Clams, and with this in place, the rest of the squad did what they had to. Offensively, Danny Angell (Littleton/Quinnipiac) was a behemoth in this one, pumping in three impressive goals; the always productive Jake Tellers (East Catholic/Quinnipiac) chipped in with two as well. After the LI Express win, we were faced with the bracket favorite, Sweet lax Upstate. Despite the fact that they were reputed to be the clear favorites, we’d beaten this squad before, at their own event. We knew the repeat would be a tough feat to pull off, but we weren’t deterred. And thanks to another 100% win pct. performance by Ethan Barnard, and the dominance of the defensive corp (Ned Lynch (Deerfield/Army), Boyd Hall (St. Mark’s/Quinnipiac), Jack Venturelli (Duxbury HS/Connecticut) along with LSM’s Martin Folan (B.C. High/Holy Cross) and Johnny Kantaros (Rivers/Middlebury) were all exceptional), we outlasted this outstanding squad from Upstate NY. To put the magnitude of the win in context, it is worth mentioning that half the players are ACC or Big 10 commits, and all but two headed to D1 destinations. It was happy days in Clam-land at the end of day one.
Day two began just as day one had. In playoff game #1 (only 8 of the 24 teams made this ultra-elite group), we jumped up on the always-powerful Prime Time (NY). Jake Tellers came out hot, with 2 first half goals, and Pat Mahoney (Rivers/Colorado College) stopped 4 shots and allowed just one first half goal. But as they’re known to do, they came back on us, and despite a huge late goal from Will Kezerian (Kimball Union/Hartford), a few mishaps left the game knotted at the end of regulation. While the overtime didn’t last too long, and did not end in our favor, it was as exciting a flurry of lacrosse action as one will find at the high school level. It was a worthy ending to such an exciting game, with a few great plays being made in a short period of time. Unfortunately, one of our plays was not outstanding, and it led to an opportunity that our opponents capitalized on. And like that, we were out of the playoffs. ESPN coverage would have to wait another year.
The final game was an anomaly, and a disappointing way to go out. After beating Sweet Lax Upstate earlier, we saw them again. This time deflated and moderately under stimulated by having to see the same opponent yet again. They, on the other hand, seemed to relish the opportunity at redemption, and took it to us in a humbling manner.
The final game was to be against Laxachusetts Black, and players and parents couldn’t have been more excited. I’m not sure if it’s possible to be rivals with a team you hardly ever play, but if it is possible, it’s the case with these two. Regardless of one’s sentiment on whether this quantifies as a rivalry or not, the fact is that there are many players on each team that know each other very well, and it would have been an exciting and in my opinion very close game. But alas, the skies opened, and day three was wiped out by rain. If there’s a positive in this generally disappointing eventuality, it’s that a 6-hour drive home was shortened to 4 for many, and many families were home by midday. Sunday afternoons on the couch or doing yard work instead of on the road are not all bad, especially in the final weekend of a long, hard-fought summer.
And so it is that the ’19 Clams end the NLF event, meant to represent the country’s Top 24 clubs, as a playoff team, giving an informal indication that we’re among the Top 8. However you choose to slice it, whatever the powers-that-be determine coming out of this event in terms of larger meaning, it shows we belong not only among the nation’s elite, but in a select group atop the group. It is gratifying, and not surprising, to see this outcome as the end result of three years of hard work. We are as confident in our club’s three-year plan as we’ve ever been, and this result goes a long way toward justifying it.
Clams 2019 (2-2)
W 8-5 v. LI Express Moran
W 6-5 v. Sweetlax Upstate
L 7-6 (OT) v. Primetime (playoffs)
L 15-3 v. Sweetlax Upstate
2020 Fighting Clams
I made the executive decision to miss the first game of the day at NLF. I knew I was going to be coaching another team, and I knew I’d be on the field all day catching up on viewing the third Clam class in attendance that I hadn’t seen a lot previously. Uncharacteristically, I took the late(r) AM shift, in the interest of self-preservation.
But sure enough, I was up well before the start of the first Clam game at NLF, following the Tourney Machine livestream closely as I grinded away at some recruiting work on my computer before heading to the fields. I saw us jump ahead and then hang onto a lead for a little while. Then I saw the game knot up, and then I saw the always-exceptionally talented CT-based Eclipse squad pull ahead. Then I stepped away from my phone, beginning the process of rounding up the coaches and the clipboards and the balls etc. and departing for the fields. 15 minutes or so passed, then I clicked refresh and saw that we’d regained the lead and held on by a final of 9-8. I was truly psyched. An argument could be made that this was the 2020 class’s biggest win of the summer, on the biggest stage. What a way to kickoff the NLF Championship.
While I wasn’t personally there, the stat sheet tells the same story the coaches told me after the game. The always-dynamic Tucker Spencer (Pingree) may have played his best game as a Clam, scoring 4 of the team’s last 5 goals. Zach Frank (Hopkinton/Sacred Heart) also scored a huge goal and assisted on one of Tucker’s goals down the stretch. Pat Thomas (Gunnery) stepped into the cage in the 2nd half and stopped 5 shots while allowing just 2 goals.
On balance, in the culminating tournament of the summer, the 2020 Fighting Clams played their best lacrosse. Facing off against the top club teams in the country, the Clams went 3-1 and, against some of the best teams they faced all summer long. After a decisive loss to a loaded Long Island Express team that followed the Eclipse win, the Clams went on to defeat the New England Twisters and a tough True Illinois team to round out day two undefeated. The first game against Eclipse was, as we mentioned before, likely the best 2020 game of the summer, but the last game against True Illinois was in many ways just as impressive in terms of the way we played the game. With beautiful balance (five offensive players tallied multiple points), and with great defense played by Will Crowley (Portsmouth Abbey), Ryan Rahbany (Rivers), Tripp Clark (St. John’s Prep) and Pat Thomas (Gunnery, 6 saves and 1 goal against in first half), the Clams finished playing in a manner that suggested they weren’t going to lose again. I honestly don’t think they had another loss in them down in PA.
Tucker Spencer was a threat all weekend long, amassing 9 points (5g, 4a) in four games. Tommy Miller (Rivers) lit it up from the midfield with 5 goals and 2 assists. Peter Kip (Thayer) rounded out the leading scorer list with 4 helpers and 2 goals on the weekend. Save the lone loss to LI Express, the Clams offense was getting great looks on nearly every possession.
The defense was a strength in each game. Dalton Church (Proctor) and Tripp Clark (St. John’s Prep) frustrated opponents and landed numerous take-away checks. Anders Pineau (Wellesley) was a ground ball machine in the defensive zone while Pat Thomas (Gunnery, 51.5 save %) made some acrobatic saves that kept the Clams in business.
The tournament was a strong finish to a summer that saw the 2020 Fighting Clams make tremendous progress playing together as a team and winning some reputation-building games on the national stage. I’ve always been a firm believer that the way a team ends a season is often how they begin the next, year after year it proves to be true. And if the pattern continues, this is clearly a great sign for this 2020 team. Add to that a couple roster-strengthening moves that are currently taking place, and I’d say with confidence to the lacrosse community that this is a team that will be downright dangerous this fall!
Clams 2020 (3-1)
W 9-8 v. Eclipse
L 12-4 v. LI Express Weiczorek
W 6-5 v. Twisters
W 7-5 v. True IL Premier
2021 Fighting Clams
I remember exactly where I was when I got the call. It was the best and worst of calls. I knew immediately the last-minute scramble that would ensue would be time consuming when we had little time or energy for the task (on-site at the highly competitive Naptown Tournament); I also knew our players who didn’t have prior commitments wouldn’t be able to say no to the opportunity.
In the end, after careful consideration, the long-term benefits of this decision outweighed the short term challenges. I knew that given the players we were missing and given that we were literally going into the most competitive event one could possibly find anywhere in the country, that we’d endure some valleys…I was just hoping for some peaks to offset them. And there were some peaks, for sure.
One clear peak was the NH Tomahawks game. On the surface, one might fairly ask how a 5-1 loss could be a “peak” and not a “valley”, one needs to look back 38 days to the NALA tournament in Delaware, one of our early summer events. At this event, where the team fought their way to a rather impressive 2-1-2 record, the lone loss came to this same NH Tomahawks team, the final: 15-1. Over the course of the summer, there are benchmarks that present themselves. And this was one. Even without some key players, to make up 10 goals on this nationally renowned club in just over a month represents serious progress. Coach Prudden is a major proponent of having a growth mindset, finding the positives in what might be otherwise perceived as a negative. This is a clear example of both.
Another peak was the great effort we put forth against Team Carolina. At the aforementioned Naptown event, another top 5 national event in Annapolis that we attended two weeks prior, this very team ended as the eventual Champion. After we played them to a 5-4 game in Annapolis, no one else came close. And here again, we fought them very hard, eventually falling 6-4.
Whether we’d call this event a success or not has everything to do with the expectations one had going in. We literally had 8 days to form a team that had taken months to form in our other classes. And rounding up nationally elite teams does not happen on such short notice. It is my sincere hope that credit is given to both the effort we put forth on the field, and also, to the efforts our Clam families showed a willingness to make, as we pulled together a squad on such short notice. Because what I do know is if we put the time and energy into the formation of next year’s team the way we did this year for the 2019 and 2020 class’s NLF teams, that we’ll be right in the mix with the event’s best. We have that talent in this program, no question. We just need time for the right people to plan accordingly so they can bring their all to this exciting season-ending gauntlet of an event.
At the event, it was the defense that carried the load. Poles Matt and Michael Petitto (Wakefield), Keegan Palmer (Central Catholic) and Jimmy Freehill (St. Sebastian’s) led a tenacious, aggressive and at-times stifling defensive unit. Michael Marinello (Belmont Hill) backstopped this group capably throughout, and Henry Peters (St. Mark’s) stood tall as well. Despite the shortage of overall production on the offensive end, some players filled the voids capably at times. Brady Martin (Winchester) was one such player. Of his 3 goals, a couple were both spectacular and timely. Dan Addonizio (BB&N), Peter Cook (St. Mark’s) and Charlie Alfieri (Dover-Sherborn) all competed throughout, putting forth confident efforts that indicated they belonged on this stage.
Peaks and valleys. This event handed us both. But if expectations were set appropriately, and communicated effectively, hopefully this group can find the positives, as we’ve been able to do as coaches upon reflection. A growth mindset, by definition, requires room for growth as a key ingredient. Events like Naptown, where we ended with a very impressive 4-1 record (and as mentioned earlier, only loss came to the eventual Champs) and the Philly Showcase (where we went 2-1-1, and the team we tied on day one, the DC Express, eventually won the NLF Championship) show that when we’re at full strength, we’re clearly among the nation’s elite as a class.
We’ll learn from this event heading into fall, as we have the entire first Clam season for the ‘21’s. This summer is when we find our ceiling, where we search for what our top performances say about what we’re capable of. And if our top performances include a tie against the team that won the nation’s toughest tournament, and a one-goal loss against another who won perhaps the nation’s next most challenging, it’s hard to deny that our ceiling may be as high as any Clam class in recent memory.
Now we need to grow, to make sure we stay at high level we’ve proved that we’re capable of. Coach Prudden and Coach Navoni are ready to do just that this fall.
Clams 2021 (0-4)
L 13-4 v. Sweetlax National
L 5-1 v. NH Tomahawks
L 6-4 v. Team Carolina
L 10-0 v. True IL Premier