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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Outside of the annual Needham/Wellesley tilt, few Bay State Conference lacrosse games have as much riding on them as the Walpole/Wellesley game.
On Tuesday, the Raiders and Rebels took to Turco Field for their annual meeting with both teams trying to earn a statement victory to help improve their state tournament resumes for later this month.
Behind a four-goal performance, including the game-winner in double overtime, by junior UMass-Lowell commit Conor Foley, the Rebels outlasted the Hugh Callahan-led Raiders with a thrilling 8-7 come-from-behind victory.
“Obviously, a huge win for us tonight,” said senior captain Ryan Birch following the game. “They’re a great team, probably one of the best teams in the state. Their goalie made some good saves and kept them in the game. We just grinded it out and I think it’ll definitely carry some momentum moving forward into these next couple games.”
“Huge win, we’re all pumped to get that one,” added fellow senior captain Cullen McGlynn.
Wellesley netted the game’s first three goals, all of which Hugh Callahan had a hand in. Callahan (two goals, two assists) put home a shot on fast break to open the scoring before dishing a feed to brother Carl Callahan on the doorstep for a 2-0 Wellesley lead just 2:35 later. Nick Marvan fired home a goal off of a feed from Callahan on a lefty bouncer to extend the lead to 3-0 midway through the quarter.
Senior captain Ryan Birch responded for Walpole with a left-handed dodge from X and finish down low to get Walpole on the board with 4:24 to play in the opening quarter.
Birch’s second of the game on a left-handed bouncer with 7:15 to play in the second got Walpole back to within one goal. With 3:15 to play in the half, UMass Boston commit and senior captain Darragh Fahey came streaking out from behind the cage and fed a pass where only Foley could get it. Foley reached up high with one hand, corralled the pass, and fired home a ridiculous highlight-reel one-handed goal to knot the game at three for Walpole at the half.
The third quarter went scoreless until 29 seconds remaining, when Kyle Hirshom gave Walpole it’s first lead of the contest after a series of dodges behind the cage and right-handed finish up high. The Rebels led by one at the end of three.
Hugh Callahan fired home a goal off of a feed from Michael Bomes just 1:30 into the fourth quarter to tie the game back up at four for Wellesley. Cam Scales gave Walpole back the lead with 2:41 to play by putting home a quick-stick at the doorstep off a feed from Fahey. Wellesley fogo Teddy Komjathy responded immediately for the Raiders, however, winning the ensuing faceoff and streaking in before firing home a missile of a bouncer to tie the game at five with 2:29 to play.
Conor Foley buried a right-handed cannon to give Walpole back the lead with 1:39 to play. Foley added an empty-netter with Wellesley pressing for possession with 1:07 to play to extend Walpole’s lead to 7-5. Marvan cut the deficit back to a single goal for Wellesley at 7-6 by firing home a right-handed shot off of a feed from Andrew Pini on a fast break. With just seconds remaining following a clutch faceoff victory by Komjathy, Henry Gear netted the equalizer off of a chaotic scramble in front to send the Raider bench into a state of ecstasy, forcing overtime.
Both goaltenders made clutch saves to extend the game in the overtime, as Joe McGrath (six saves) robbed Bomes with the stick on a right-handed rip after Penn State commit Teddy Darcey (10 saves) kicked away a shot by Kyle Hirshom. The game required a second overtime period.
With 31 seconds to play in the second overtime, Foley sent the Rebels home happy by putting away a shot off of a scramble in front to give Walpole the thrilling 8-7 overtime victory.
“I thought we did the things that we needed to do to win and made our runs after they made theirs,” said Walpole head coach Jason Andalo. “We made the plays in the end.”
As far as the overtime hero Conor Foley, Birch gave high praise to the man that teammates refer to as “Cardiac Conor” for his clutch performances late in games.
“He’s been huge for us all season, it’s what he does,” said Birch. “He’s clutch.”
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.