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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Spring is a special time of year with warmer weather, snow melting, and flowers blooming. At Dover-Sherborn Regional High School, springtime means one thing: lacrosse season. Over the years, DS has been the pinnacle for success in the high school lacrosse world here in Massachusetts, and in 2017, the expectations for greatness are no different than they have been in past years. This season, the Raiders will aim for their third consecutive Division III state title, and will have to go through a gauntlet of quality opposition (Medfield twice, Westwood twice, Catholic Memorial, and the Coach’s Challenge Cup).
Now, do not get it twisted - the words “Division III” have absolutely zero relevance in the lacrosse world as far as competitiveness within the leagues is concerned. Not just in Massachusetts, but all across the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions, it is often the smaller towns with strong youth programs, such as DS, Medfield, Hanover, Cohasset, Grafton, and Weston, that produce some of the state’s most elite lacrosse talent. It’s almost the exact opposite of sports like football, basketball, and hockey, where the larger the town, the better the chance of building a quality team. DS is the perfect example of this, as despite their small size and enrollment when compared to local dominant athletic powerhouses such as Xaverian, BC High, and Duxbury, DS has still been able to stand tall and do more than just compete with these teams for the better part of their lacrosse program’s existence.Take attackman Bailey Laidman, for example. In 2017, the All-American four-year starter will enter his senior season, during which he will captain the Raiders before heading down south in the fall to play for prestigious ACC power North Carolina on a full scholarship. Most elite high school lacrosse programs in the state of Massachusetts would be happy just to send a guy to a Division II or III University, but DS has had a guy coming up in their program that’s been committed to play at the highest of levels before his high school career even began (Laidman committed before the start of his freshman season at DS in 2014). What makes Laidman so special is two things: firstly, his ability to single handedly take over a game with his quick hands, precise dodging, and rocket of a shot; secondly, the way he is able to draw in a team’s entire defensive unit with incredible off-ball movement, leaving teammates wide open.
Along with Laidman, the Raiders will also be led by senior midfielder and faceoff specialist Joe Paolatto, whose performance on draws in last season’s Division III state final against Grafton allowed DS to blow it open early with constant possessions and eventually take home their second consecutive title. This season, the Colby College-commit Paolatto will look to continue his dominance on draws, allowing more possessions for him, Laidman, and the rest of his Raider teammates.
Another name to look out for this season will be senior attackman and Bowdoin College-commit Jack Mahoney, who works as Laidman’s partner in crime whenever the Raiders are on the man-up. Much of Mahoney’s success can be accredited to Laidman drawing in opponents, but the same can be said about Laidman when it comes to Mahoney, who also possesses incredible dodging abilities and a knack for finding open teammates on the doorstep of the cage. If the Raiders are able to keep Laidman, Mahoney, and Paolatto all healthy, it’ll be extremely difficult for anybody in the TVL and all of Division III to stop this absolute wagon of an offense from scoring at will.
The Raiders will begin their quest for a third straight state title on the road on March 25 in a non-conference showdown against Natick before taking on another tough task at perennial Bay State Conference power, Needham, on March 28.