By Greg Phipps
Peabody boys’ lacrosse head coach Greg Welch has to be looking forward to next season, given that this year’s squad showed it can compete with the better teams in the Northeastern Conference (NEC) and could have made the postseason with a few more favorable bounces.
As it turns out, the Tanners missed the playoffs by one game. The season came to an end last Wednesday evening, May 30, in a 12-8 home loss to the NEC champion Marblehead Magicians. It was an intense, physical and penalty-ridden contest. Both teams drew a number of infractions. Peabody was called for nine.
The Tanners, who finished the season at 9-10 overall, fell behind, 6-2, at halftime but played the Magicians even over the final two quarters. The Tanners climbed within two goals at one point but couldn’t overtake the visitors. Nick Patturelli scored three times and Colby Therrien netted two goals to lead the Peabody attack. Jack Houlden, Andrew Lucas and Keenan Madden added the other tallies. Goalie Austin Leggett stopped 14 shots, and Pat Russo went 8-4 in the face-off circle.
“The guys fought hard and that’s all you can ask for,” Welch said after the game. “They left it all on the field. I’m proud of them. They were a little sloppy in some areas, but the heart and hustle were there.”
Though the Tanners graduated 12 players from this year’s team, much of the starting unit consisted of underclassmen. Welch said having a large number of returnees with varsity experience should bode well for 2019. “We’re young and that shows on some levels, but it’s been a great learning experience for these kids,” he said. “We were in the race for the conference title for most of the season, and that’s something to build on moving forward.”
When asked about the departing seniors, Welch alluded to Stephen Ell, who missed the last two games due to injury. Ell eclipsed the 50-goal plateau this season. The coach also mentioned defenders John Najjar and Mason Zeuli, who solidified the backfield. “They’re a special group. We really missed Stevie on offense, and John is one of my favorite kids to coach,” Welch said. “He does everything right on and off the field. He’s a role model. They’re all great character guys.”
Considering the Tanners suffered one-goal defeats to Beverly and Danvers (they also defeated those same two opponents by a goal), a playoff berth was very achievable this spring. Peabody hopes to take that next step in 2019.
“You can teach lacrosse but you can’t teach heart and hustle. I think our guys have nothing to hang their heads about,” Welch said. “They played hard tonight. They have all season long.”