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By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Each of the last five seasons, Division III Central/East has belonged to Dover-Sherborn in boys lacrosse. In 2019, the Raiders have put themselves in a prime position to make it six in a row. A 13-5 (10-2) regular season that featured wins against Division II powers Wayland, Bridgewater-Raynham and North Andover, along with another TVL Small title, has earned them the top seed in the sectional.
The Raiders have filled the voids of departed 2018 offensive weapons such as Michael Mastrobuono and Jack Dillon extremely well, with guys like Henry Kenny, Ford Pegram, and Noah Sampson excelling in expanded roles. Erik Niit and Timmy Polk have both been extremely solid all season long, and are going to be main focal points of the DS offense in this tournament. Pierce Gregory is the biggest name to know. Since getting their star sophomore attack-man back from a broken wrist midway through the year, DS is 8-3, with their losses all coming narrowly to Division I power Franklin (9-8) and Division II heavyweights Medfield (12-9) and Hopkinton (17-11).
Defensively, DS is anchored by senior captain Cameron Raycroft, along with sophomore LSM/close D Drew Dummer.
Another name to watch out for is Matt Paolatto. As the prime fogo for DS, Paolatto will play a pivotal role for the Raiders in this tournament, as the senior’s performance at the face-off X will dictate how much their heavy hitters, Gregory, Polk and Niit, get chances to score. Paolatto says that he and his group are confident in one another and are excited to to compete for the state championship and put away some demons after falling to Cohasset in last year’s Division III final.
“As the reigning sectional champs, there’s always going to be pressure to succeed, but the main thing we have is experience,” said Paolatto. “Almost everyone on the team was on the team last year when we went on that run, so we all know what it takes to go on another one this year. We plan to play our game and stay composed. We all have confidence in each other to get the job done.”
Paolatto agrees that getting Pierce Gregory back has been a huge boost for the Raiders, both in terms of production and confidence. In order for DS to reach its full offensive potential, Paolatto says he and his teammates must move the ball and keep opposing defenses honest.
“Losing Pierce was definitely a big hit on our offense because of the great player he is,” said Paolatto. “He is back to full strength and the main thing we need to do to build on that is make sure to move the ball around on offense. We need to be able to get the ball to every one of our offensive threats and keep the defense on their heels. If we can do that, then any of our threats like Pierce have the opportunity to make the play.”
As for the road ahead, DS will face the winner of Hopedale and Ashland in the quarterfinals, with the winner of Holliston and Medway looming in the semis. Paolatto says despite being pretty familiar with the majority of the competition in their sectional through TVL play, the Raiders plan to just play their game and not dwell on the outcomes of past games.
“It definitely helps to know your opponent and know how they play,” said Paolatto on the possibility of playing two TVL teams to begin the tournament in Ashland and either Holliston or Medway. “Regardless, we can’t focus on the outcomes of those games in the past. We have to make sure to play our game and bring the intensity, regardless of the opponent. If we can do that, then we all have confidence in ourselves to succeed.”
The top-seeded Raiders will play their quarterfinal contest against the winner of No. 8 Ashland and No. 9 Hopedale on June 7.
For funny and insightful sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter @fLAno0.