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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The 2017 season ended in about the most difficult way imaginable for the Walpole High boys lacrosse team, surrendering a two-goal lead to Medfield in the final seconds of the Division II Central/East sectional final before falling in overtime.
This season, Walpole has taken care of business and earned themselves the No. 3 seed in the Central/East playoffs, following a 14-4 regular season. However, despite the high seeding, it’s not all good news for the Rebels, as senior captain and attack-man Darragh Fahey will miss the 2018 postseason due to a fractured thumb.
“Darragh’s presence on the field will definitely be missed,” said Walpole head coach Jason Andalo when asked about his senior captain. “He’ll still do all he can to bring about his leadership from the sideline and support the group, but the good thing about our offense is that it does not revolve around one guy. We have five or six other guys that we hold high confidence in to produce every time we touch the ball.”
Now that Fahey’s role has been transferred to the sidelines, the Rebels will rely on the offensive services of junior UMass-Lowell commit and leading goal-scorer Conor Foley, along with senior captains Ryan Birch and Cullen McGlynn, while senior Kyle Hirshom anchors the midfield corps. Two other offensive weapons to watch out for are senior attack-man Cam Scales and senior midfielder Pat Fallon.
With such a talented group of players on offense, Andalo says the basic concepts of beating their man and moving the ball around will prove pivotal for the Rebels in these playoffs.
“The basic ideas we need to stay true to are moving the ball and beating our man,” said Andalo. “We assisted on about 65 percent of our goals this season, so when you’re creating that type of ball movement, it definitely benefits you and allows more scoring opportunities. In order to score, we also need to make the right reads and beat our man, whether that is in the open field or dodging from behind the cage. If we do these things, we should be successful but it all comes down to execution and putting in the necessary work.”
Headlining Walpole’s defensive corps are senior captain and Franklin Pierce-bound pole Rob Colburn and goaltender Joe McGrath.
“Getting those extra possessions on faceoffs and doing all the little things well in the defensive end, like winning the battles for loose balls and getting those first-chance groundballs, are going to be huge,” said Andalo. “We have a good and experienced group back there ready to take on that challenge.”
At the time of print, the Rebels will enjoy a few extra days of rest with a first-round bye before hosting the winner of North Attleboro and Belmont in the quarterfinals on June 8.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.