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By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Medfield High boys lacrosse entered the 2019 with a lot of deserved hype, thanks to the majority of its 2018 starting lineup returning. Following a 16-2 regular season and an unblemished TVL record that included wins over DS, Hopkinton twice, Westwood twice, Xaverian and Pinkerton, its safe to say that John Isaf’s Warriors lived up to the hype.
Thanks to their regular season dominance in the TVL, the Warriors were awarded with the No. 1 overall seed in Division II Central/East, a sectional that historically has been one of the deepest and craziest brackets in the state. Last season, DII C/E featured four overtime games, including a gut-wrenching and controversial 13-12 defeat for Medfield in the quarterfinals against top-seeded Wayland. This year, Medfield is out to not only wash away the painful memories of last season’s tough quarterfinal exit, but make a statement run to Nickerson Field for the state championship.
Medfield’s success this season has not come without adversity. After losing highly-touted junior LSM Sam Joline for the season due to a knee injury, the Warriors needed somebody to step up and serve as a wing on face-offs and log key minutes in the defensive end. James Wilder has risen to the task mightily and flourished as Medfield’s top LSM. The sophomore is likely headed for All-Conference honors after scooping 28 ground balls and causing 29 turnovers.
“We thought he was going to be special,” said head coach John Isaf when asked about his stud sophomore LSM. “When returning LSM Sam Joline went down to a knee injury at the beginning of the season, we knew our depth on defense was going to be tested, and we'd need to rely more on James. With veterans like Pat Thompson, Mike McNeil, John Schofield, Derek Gemski backing him up and the emergence of Mike Vachon at defensive midfield, backed up by veteran keeper in Peter Barrette, we thought we'd have a chance to be special on the defensive end. And when you factor in the extra possessions our fogo Connor DePiero typically wins for us, we like what we have and the way we're playing on defense right now.”
With stars such as Wilder and Schofield anchoring the defensive corps, as well as bolstering a potent set of offensive weapons such as Mike Hauptman, Jimmy Cosolito, Jake Sherman and Jack McCordic, Isaf says that his team is confident and ready heading into the gauntlet that is the Division II Central/East sectional.
“Division II Central/East is always loaded,” said Isaf about the road ahead. “The target is always on our back regardless of our seed, so we're used to it. We always seem to get everyone's best game. So we have to bring ours. And that's the way we want it. We believe that high-level competition only makes us better.”
Isaf also emphasized how important it is to stay focused on the tasks at hand. No looking ahead and no dwelling on the past.
“It's fairly simple to manage,” said Isaf. “We only focus on what's right in front of us and executing the fundamentals as best we can. And right now, our only focus is on Walpole Thursday night. We don't look behind and we don't look ahead. Focus on the play right in front of you. Whether that's a practice rep or a live game rep, our mentality is ‘flush it, next play.’”
Medfield will begin its quest for a state championship against old pal and No. 8-seeded Walpole on Thursday evening. If the Warriors take care of business, they’ll face the winner of No. 4 Foxboro and No. 5 Westwood in the semifinals.
For funny and insightful sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter @fLAno0.