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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The Needham High School boys varsity lacrosse team got the result they wanted to start the season on Thursday afternoon in Walpole, but the manner in which it came likely was not how they drew it up.
Behind a hat trick by junior midfielder Brendan Walsh and a 15-save performance by senior goaltender Andrew McNally, the Rockets grinded out a hard-fought 9-8 victory, handing the Rebels their second straight loss to begin the season after falling 11-9 to Xaverian on a rain-soaked field on Tuesday in Westwood.
Walsh got the scoring started a little under 2:30 into the game off of a feed from senior captain and attack-man Danny McEvoy. Jack Malloy fired home a left-handed bouncer 45 seconds later to extend the lead to 2-0 before All-American BU commit and junior attack-man Jason Child dodged from X and finished low to make it 3-0 in favor of Needham at the end of one.
Chase Conrad got Walpole on the board with a goal on the man-up with 6:44 to play in the second quarter, cutting the deficit to 3-1. McEvoy responded for Needham, however, on a quick catch and shoot to make it 4-1 with 4:30 to play. Senior captain Cullen McGlynn dodged from X and finished up high to cut the deficit back to two goals for Walpole at 4-2 with 1:21 to play in the half. With 12 seconds remaining, senior captain Ryan Birch found an open Kyle Hirshom, and the senior midfielder/fogo fired home a bouncer to cut the deficit to 4-3 at halftime.
With 9:05 to play in the third, Birch fired home a left-handed crank to knot the game at four. Cam Scales gave Walpole its first lead of the contest with 7:06 to play in the third when the senior attack-man put home the rebound off of a save by McNally. Walsh put an end to the 4-0 run by Walpole with a drive, fake low, and finish up high to tie the game back up at five for Needham with 3:16 to play in the quarter. Michael Calcagni launched home his first of the season with 33 seconds to play to give Needham back the lead at 6-5 entering the fourth quarter.
Walsh completed the hat trick just 1:30 into the fourth quarter to double Needham’s lead to two at 7-5 before netting another for his fourth of the day to extend the lead to 8-5 with 8:31 to play. Junior attack-man Conor Foley responded with a goal on his off-hand with 7:58 to play to cut it to 8-6.
With 3:27 to play, Paul Martin delivered what appeared to be the dagger for Needham with a quick-stick finish off of a feed from X by McEvoy to make it a 9-6 game. However, senior captain Darragh Fahey and Rebs were not even close to being done. With 37 seconds to play, Foley stole the ball from McNally on an attempted clear and deposited it into the open cage to make it 9-7. Following a big forced turnover by senior captain Robert Colburn at midfield, Fahey scored the goal of the year for the Rebs with a drive to his strong-hand and a behind-the-back finish to make it a one-goal game with 19 seconds to play.
A massive face-off win by Hirshom gave the Rebels back the ball with time winding down and the chance to tie the game. Just as time was set to expire, McGlynn broke in on a one-on-one with McNally and the senior net-minder stuffed the Walpole senior captain with a stick save on his strong side. McNally held the ball and fired it the length of the field as time ran out, and Needham escaped with the one-goal win.
Starting the season 0-2 obviously is not ideal for Walpole, but Fahey holds confidence and says he expects big things from this group the rest of the season.
“It felt like we just couldn’t score when we needed to,” said Fahey. “Tough loss. We really needed these first two wins to get a high seed in the state tournament but there’s a lot of time left in this season for us to bounce back. We’ve been getting a lot of space and setting up some good offense, we just need to finish. We’ll be back.”
At the time of print, Walpole will look to earn their first win of the season when the Rebels travel to Milton on April 10. Meanwhile, Needham will look to stick to its winning ways when the Rockets travel to Weymouth on April 10 before hosting Milton on April 12.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.