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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Over the years, Needham High School, Xaverian, St. Sebastian’s, and Dexter-Southfield have been four of the household names in the Massachusetts high school/prep lacrosse world. During these next several weeks, alumni from all four of these local powerhouse programs will be competing for the NCAA Division I National Championship, as Needham’s Robbie Pisano (Marquette), Southborough/St. Sebastian’s Pat Healy (Notre Dame), Walpole/Xaverian’s Luke Buckley (Ohio State) and Walpole/Dexter’s Pat Fraser (Johns Hopkins) all took to the field this past weekend in the opening round of the NCAA Division I Lacrosse Tournament.
The Golden Eagles of Marquette have been a great story leading up to the 2017 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament. After finishing the regular season at 6-7, Marquette needed to win the Big East conference tournament just to receive a spot in the dance as an automatic bid conference champion. The Golden Eagles took down now No. 5 overall seed Denver (11-8) followed by a thrilling 10-9 win over Providence in the Big East championship game.
A three-time recipient of Big East All-Academic honors, Robbie Pisano notched four goals, two assists, and 14 shots on net during the 2017 season for Marquette. The senior corporate communications major was a three-time letter winner at NHS as a member of the Rocket lacrosse team, as well as a three-time recipient of All-Conference honors. Despite winning their way into the tournament with a late-season push, Pisano and the Golden Eagles drew a tough matchup in round one against Pat Healy and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Throughout the 2017 season, Healy has been one of the main men for the Irish in the defensive end, starting in all 14 of Notre Dame’s games, scooping 21 ground balls and causing seven turnovers.
The Golden Eagles battled back to tie the game at four late in the first half after Notre Dame jumped out to a 4-1 lead, but the Irish prevailed behind a strong second half in both ends of the field by a final of 15-9. Notre Dame moves on to face Denver next weekend with a trip to Foxboro on the line.
As for the Walpole boys, Buckley and Fraser, Hopkins and Ohio State were put in the same section of the bracket, meaning that a second-round date between the two was a possibility heading into the tournament’s opening round games.Following an incredible career at Xaverian, where he was a four-year starter, 2013 Division I state champion, and voted senior captain, Buckley committed to Ohio State before the start of his senior season at 800 Clapboardtree Street. As a junior, Buckley secured All-Conference honors behind a ridiculous 58 goals and 40 assists. During Xaverian’s run to a state title as a sophomore in 2013, Buckley notched 15 goals and 55 assists. Unfortunately, Buckley was forced to sit out his freshman season in Columbus due to injury. However, in 2017, Buckley was able to return to 100 percent health and gave Ohio State a massive boost in the offensive end. The former Hawk registered 13 goals and six assists while helping lead the Buckeyes to a 13-4 record and the No. 3 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Buckley played a significant role in Ohio State’s 7-4 first-round win over Loyola (MD) on Sunday afternoon, registering an assist on the game’s opening goal by Tre Leclaire to go along with two ground balls and a shot on net.
As for Fraser, the junior has been an absolute machine on the man-up unit for Hopkins in 2017, scoring eight of his 13 tallies throughout the season on the man-up to go along with one assist, seven ground balls and 28 shots on goal. Fraser is currently tied for fourth-most all-time for man-up goals (18) since the start of the 2003 season, when man-up goals officially became a stat in collegiate lacrosse. At 8-6, the Blue Jays clearly did not have the regular season that they had hoped for, as by Hopkins standards, a successful regular season includes 10+ wins and/or a Big 10 championship. However, all that matters in this sport is getting into the tournament, and at 8-6, that is exactly what Fraser and the gang did.
Unfortunately, the Jays were unable to fight off a strong Duke team in the first round on Saturday afternoon, falling 19-5, meaning that the Blue Devils will be taking on Buckley and Buckeyes for a spot in the final four.