SCITUATE — Getting a shot off against the Norwell High boys lacrosse team is an accomplishment.
Scoring a goal against the Clippers? It’s a rarity.
The Clippers stamped their ticket to the Division 3 state final (scheduled for Tuesday or Wednesday at Worcester State University) with a dominant defensive effort in a 12-2 win over Hanover at Scituate High on Friday. Norwell will play the winner of Saturday’s game between top-seeded Medfield and No. 4 Dracut.
“We’ve grooved some really, really good habits throughout the year,” said Norwell senior defender Jack Coyle. “One of the things we focus on every day in practice is communication. We all feel like brothers. It’s automatic at this point. We’re confident, we all love each other.”
Norwell’s defense has surrendered just 10 goals in four tournament games (making for a 64-10 differential).
Norwell’s defense sparked three transition goals against Hanover. Even goaltender Ryan Daly ended up with an assist on one of senior Brian Black’s two goals. The Clippers raced out to a 6-0 lead in the first quarter without allowing even a shot on net. Daly, who finished with 10 saves, stopped seven of the eight shots he saw in the second quarter (only Hanover’s Dylan Rice blast beat him).
So who is leading the way on the defense?
“Just the unit as a whole,” said Coyle. “I could say great things about every single one of the guys.”
Sound off, Mr. Coyle.
“Ryan Daly is just phenomenal, his reaction time is insane.”
“Will Morse, he has a fantastic stick.”
“Charlie Morse is fantastic with his body (positioning).”
“All the defensive middies just know where they are and know where to be: Ronan Schipani, Liam Higgins at LSM.”
One of the defense-turned-offense goals came during the midst of that first-quarter run. Austin Shea had a solid body check to force a turnover, and his clear ended up turning into an assist on Ryan Shea’s goal.
In the second quarter, Dylan McGuirk turned a clear into a transition goal for an 8-1 lead.
“It gets the crowd going, it gets the whole team going whenever there’s a defense goal, whether it’s on transition or a step-down or a pull goal,” said Coyle. “It just boosts the morale of the whole team.”
“This defense has been huge for this team all year,” said Norwell coach Josh Stolp. “It’s like having another guy like (Ryan) Daly or (faceoff man John) Mullen, that core group, they take the ball away all the time. We get transitions. We had three goals that were just on transition created by them getting the takeaway.”
Mullen and Daly give the Clippers an extremely solid foundation. The juniors are both committed to play lacrosse in college. Daly will play at the University of Vermont, and Mullen is heading to Syracuse.
“They got the two big pieces that will take you far in any lacrosse game,” said Hanover coach Shawn Tierney, who played at Norwell High. “Anything we would try to throw at them defensively, they had an answer for. And with Johnny Mullen, they dominated at the face-off X. He’s one of the best kids in the country and he also makes plays with the ball when he gets out there. Credit to their goaltender — if you can even get the ball and get a shot off, good luck getting it in net. Great goaltender, especially being a lefty.”
Mullen scored two goals to led a balanced offensive scoring. Five Clippers (Mullen, Ryan Shea, Joseph Daly, Griffin Vetrano and Brian Black) all scored twice. Maxwell Maiellano had one goal and Nathan Curtin had a pair of assists.
The Clippers are still vying for the program’s first state title. Last season, Norwell lost in the state final against Dover-Sherborn.
“We know the intensity of it, we know that moment and the emotions that come up in that,” said Stolp. “We just have to be in the moment.”
“It feels amazing to be back, but the job’s not finished,” said Coyle. “We’re gunning for a state championship.”
A hard end to Hanover’s season
For the third consecutive postseason, the Hawks went on a deep run. In 2019 and 2021, Hanover’s season ended in the South Sectional finals (which are no longer part of the new tournament system).
Rice was the lone freshman on that 2019 team, which was also Tierney’s first year as the team’s head coach. Hired for the head-coaching job in his early 20s, Tierney has helped build a consistent contender.
“Credit to our kids because they play their tails off,” said Tierney. “For a town that’s not really necessarily a lacrosse town, we’ve had some success for a couple years just getting some athletes to play the game.
“We’re just trying to get our athletes and grow the game. That’s my main goal, anywhere. Whether I’m coaching little kids or high school, I’m a big proponent of the game. It brought me everything in my life. As kids start to play here, we notice they really start to like the game a lot more, too.”
Rice, a senior captain, and sophomore Thomas Cronan scored Hanover’s goals. Junior Ronan Kearney made 7 saves.
The Hawks will graduate 12 seniors: Nathan Curtis, captain Max DaSilva, Paul Jackson, Cole Gannon, captain Sean Coughlin, Ryan Chabot, David Mitchell, captain Griffin O’Brien, captain Dylan Rice, captain Derek Tokarz, Brent Campbell and Jack Dolan.
“When you come in as a 22-year-old, 23-year-old head coach, it’s not easy to win the room, but with all these kids we had in Hanover, the game has grown and the amount of respect they give myself, coach (Jared) Mahoney, coach (Brian) Connerty, they really let us be their coach and they want to learn,” said Tierney. “They buy into us and it’s a pleasure to coach them everyday. We have a great team in Hanover. The program definitely continues to rise.”