High School Lacrosse: The time has come for HopkintonBy ALEX HALL
New Hampshire Union Leader
May 17. 2017 9:44PM
Hopkinton High School boys’ lacrosse coach Deacon Blue felt his team would be a contender in Division III this season and he was not alone. He was one of a number of D-III coaches who predicted a strong season from the Hawks.
Hopkinton has lived up to its preseason hype and then some.
The Hawks entered this week 10-0, the lone unbeaten team left in Division III and one of four teams remaining in the state with an unblemished record.
Hopkinton’s success can be attributed to its ability to dominate possession, three deadly scoring threats in senior attackmen Joe Cullinan, Sam Schuster and Liam Flanagan, and stout defensive play.
Henry Yianakopolos, who did not play last year due to injury, has played a pivotal role in gaining possession for Hopkinton. The senior tri-captain won 98 faceoffs and logged 80 ground balls and 24 assists over the Hawks’ first 10 games.
“He’s been coming up huge for us,” Blue said. “He’s a fast, athletic guy. He’s great in transition and great on defense.”
Hopkinton outscored its first 10 opponents 153-48. Cullinan, Schuster and Flanagan accounted for 109 goals over that stretch. Cullinan logged 44 goals, 30 assists and 42 ground balls. Schuster registered 35 goals and 16 assists and Flanagan tallied 30 goals and 17 assists.
“We’re strong on attack,” Blue said. “We have three seniors up there creating most of the scoring and put a lot of pressure on defenses.”
Cullinan credited his, Schuster’s and Flanagan’s numbers to a chemistry they have built since they began playing together in sixth grade. He said this year’s team is the closest he has seen over his time in the program.
“I think throughout my four years here on varsity, this squad has the best team chemistry through and through,” Cullinan said. “There’s really no problems within the team.”
While the Hawks have proven they can score goals in bunches, they have also proven to be the stingiest team in the division.
Hopkinton allowed a league-low 4.8 goals per game over its first 10 wins behind the efforts of players like goalie Derek Amoth and defensemen Sage Dubois, Gerry Donahue and Jacob Ashcraft. Amoth, a senior tri-captain, owned a .724 save percentage entering Wednesday’s contest against Trinity of Manchester. Donahue logged 59 forced turnovers and 73 ground balls over Hopkinton’s first 10 games.
“Our defense takes the ball away and can get it up for our offense,” Blue said. “Transition has been huge. We’ve been opportunistic in broken situations and get a lot of quick passing.”
Blue said even when considering the teams he played on at Hopkinton and McGill University, he doesn’t think he has ever seen a more selfless group than these Hawks.
Hopkinton has excelled in a number of areas so far this season but Blue has put an emphasis on staying humble and not allowing complacency to creep in. Cullinan said the Hawks need to be confident but not overconfident as they get ready for the playoffs.
“We know the teams we’re facing aren’t easy games,” Cullinan said. “Especially in D-III, any team can come in and beat you. We’ve just got to stay humble.”
Cullinan said Hopkinton is focused on finishing the regular season strong and capturing the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage for the postseason. Hopkinton has reached the semifinals each of the last two years. Cullinan and his fellow seniors are looking to lead the Hawks over the hump and into the title game this year.
“The past two years, we’ve had absolute heartbreakers in the semifinals,” Cullinan said. “We’re going to play with a chip on our shouldering thinking we should have been in the finals the past two years. Hopefully, we get (there) this year.”
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The Bedford High girls’ lacrosse team looked well on its way to a 14-0 record Monday before Division II Winnacunnet of Hampton turned the tables.
The Division I Bulldogs led, 10-4, at halftime and scored the first two goals of the second half. Those were the only two goals Bedford scored over the final 25 minutes, however.
Winnacunnet scored the game’s final 10 goals over the last 20 minutes to rally back for a 14-12 win and hand the Bulldogs (14-1) their first loss.
Warriors coach Michaela Hardy-Lemire said her team was able to come back because it started to win the possession battle and every player did their job.
Meg Dzialo, who did not play in the first half, finished with three goals, two assists and three draw controls. Goalie Emily Larson made 13 saves. Dana Sher logged two goals and 10 draw controls. Sher and Dzialo were two of six Warriors who found the back of the net.
“It was definitely a team effort. It was not one, two or three players who did the most,” Hardy-Lemire said. “It was a proud moment for me as a coach - all the players doing what they’re supposed to do, asked to do and are capable of doing.”
Hardy-Lemire said the victory will help the Warriors as they round out the regular season and prepare for the Division II playoffs.
“It was an exciting win to have,” Hardy-Lemire said. “It continues to build our confidence and skills and we know we can beat other teams if we continue to work hard and focus on our jobs.”
The High School Lacrosse column runs Thursdays during the season. Alex Hall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.