Tough defense lifts Thayer to ISL top
At the tail end of every practice at Thayer Academy, senior midfielder Bryn Boucher follows the same routine.
As she lines up for the seven-on-seven drill, the University of Maryland recruit actively seeks out a member of the defense.
It is an opportunity for the Hingham teen to challenge herself against a player from a unit that has developed into one of the most aggressive and stout in the Independent School League.
“I make sure one of those three is on me because they are some of the toughest defenders out there,” said Boucher. “I tell them to play me as hard as they can, not to make myself better but themselves better as well, for the team.”
The Tigers’ trio of low defenders, the Big 3 of seniors Anna Kenyon (Dedham) and Melissa Piacentini(Weymouth) and junior Allie Hooley (Hingham), have imposed their will on foes all season.
Defensively, Thayer has held opponents to fewer than seven goals per game, an impressive statistic considering the ISL boasts some of the finest talent in New England. And thanks to their sturdy play, the Tigers (14-0) have captured their second league title in three seasons. The program finished a game behind Noble & Greenough last season.
And all three players measure 5-feet-4 or less.
“The defensive unit, the three low defenders, are great,” said coach Erin Cash, who won three league crowns at the Brooks School prior to her arrival at the Braintree school.
“They’re all under 5-foot-5, which is small for a defense, but they’ve been just studs back there.”
The three have not let their small stature impede their play.
“You just have to make sure it’s body first,” said the 5-foot-3 Hooley. “You can’t check people and you can’t do anything sloppy, because checks come from sloppiness. It’s all about slides and help and communication.”
“You always have to be so quick on your feet,” added Kenyon. “You have to be where they’re going to be before they’re there.”
Cash considers the trio as competitive as any players she has coached.
Their feisty, competitive attitude is on display in practice, taking on talented performers like Boucher (31 goals, 51 assists), as well as Allison Hoffman (Columbia), University of Pennsylvania recruit McKenzie Hunt (51 goals, 13 assists), and sophomore Mackenzie Kent (44 goals, 31 assists).
“As a defender, they make me go faster, harder, stronger every day,” said Katherine McManus, a defensive wing who will play at Notre Dame next spring.
“We teach other a lot.”
Cash employs a defense-first mentality that generally helps feed the offense as well.
If the ball is turned over in the offensive end, the attackers and midfielders work hard to reclaim possession before it reaches the 50-yard line.
“We subscribed really early in the season to the idea that when we don’t have the ball, everybody is a defender,” said Cash. “Whether the goalie makes a save or there’s a ground ball in the attacking end, our attackers are our first defenders. We work really hard to get the ball back before it gets to the defensive end.”
When the ball is taken into the defensive end, the three low defenders have been relentless.
According to Cash, her players have been very good about not committing fouls and allowing subsequent open shots on net.
The final line of defense is junior goalie Callahan Kent, a Vanderbilt recruit who has been around the game as long as anyone on the squad.
Her mother, Jen, formerly the head coach at Norwell High, is a women’s assistant at Boston College. From her spot in the cage, the younger Kent helps position the defense.
“She knows so much about lacrosse,” said Kenyon, who will play field hockey at Middlebury College in the fall.
“She’s watching how the other teams attack plays. She’s telling us how to adjust, and we’re telling each other how to adjust. We all trust each other.”
Hooley added: “She’s the eye on the field. In the position that she’s in, and the skill level that she has, she sees everything that goes on, and it ups our level of command and makes us stronger as a unit.”
When the Middlesex School (13-2) suffered its second loss on Friday, the Tigers clinched the ISL title outright (there are no prep tournaments held at the end of the spring season).
Thayer closed out the regular season Wednesday at St. George’s in Rhode Island.
“I think that after last year, coming in second place really motivated us for this season,” said the 5-foot-2 Piacentini, who will play ice hockey at Syracuse. “We wanted to be the best we could be.”
“It’s a good feeling to end on a really high note.”
to Division 3 tourney
With a 20-5 road victory over North Quincy on May 15, the Hull boys secured a Division 3 tournament berth for the first time in their six-year history.
Spearheaded by the return of senior Ryan Weber (103 points) and junior Brandon Jones (80 points), the Pirates (11-5) have developed an explosive attack, scoring 198 goals through 16 games.
“We’ve been putting up a lot of goals,” said Chris Weber, the Pirates’ head coach for all six seasons. “The attack is working really well together. They have a chemistry that’s been working well for us.”
The Pirates built confidence early on. After losing to Brookline, a Division 1 program, 21-10 a year ago, Hull emerged with a tight 9-8 loss to the Warriors in early April.
“They annihilated us last year,” said Weber. This year, “the kids really got a feeling like they could hold their own.”
One of the biggest surprises has been the play of junior goalie Anthony Angelis, who was the Pirates’ fourth attack last season. But after the graduation of last year’s starting goalie, Angelis has filled the void, allowing just six goals per game.
Weber said that the tournament berth has created a buzz around school.
“I think it’s going to be huge for Hull lacrosse, for the youth [program], for everybody,” said Weber. “The girls are in as well; there’s a fair amount of buzz in a very strong baseball town.”
Andrew MacDougall can be reached at email@example.com.