Gritty and game

TOM RAFFELT

The 2018 Monadnock Regional lacrosse team overcame a numbers deficit to go 9-7, winning eight straight at one juncture, to reach the state semifinals for a second straight year.

The Monadnock lacrosse team was not dependent on one player. It was dependent on each player.

The Huskies were built like a Spartan phalanx, an ancient battle formation of heavily armed infantry formed in close ranks. Each soldier covered the man to his left from ankle to neck with his shield.

In tight confines, the phalanx could eliminate the numbers game. But with one missing link or a single chink in the armor, the entire front could fall.

“We were always losing one kid away from everything being a completely different story or a completely different game plan,” Monadnock Coach Rob Hart said. “We were thin for sure.”

Monadnock consistently used only 11 or 12 players throughout the course of the season.

Yet the Huskies made it to the Division III semifinals for the second consecutive year with just 15 players in uniform. There, they fell 11-5 to Laconia, which dressed nearly 30 players and was playing on its home turf.

The Huskies finished the season 9-7.

When the dust settled, disappointment was felt, to be sure, but it was not the overarching emotion. It was outweighed by pride and exhaustion.

Monadnock outshot Laconia 34-26. It hung with the consensus second-best team in Division III for three out of four periods on that June evening. In the end, Hart’s resilient club fell victim to fatigue and a hot goaltender.

“They played loose,” Hart said. “They knew they could do it, but they didn’t know if it could happen. They didn’t worry about it. It was what it was. Some games went our way, some didn’t. They never quit.”

The Huskies exhausted a great deal of their vigor in simply reaching the semifinals.

They ended the regular season on a four-game losing streak. They white-knuckled their way past Pelham in a sweltering quarterfinal game that avenged a loss three weeks prior.

Heading into the final weeks of the season, the gritty green and white looked primed for a home playoff game. After back-to-back losses to open the spring, they rallied to win eight consecutive games.

Monadnock returned just two starters, Chris Boucher on attack and Matt Smith on defense, from the year before. It was without 13 players who graduated.

It took them a while to find their feet. And it took a while for Hart to get a good feel for exactly what he had.

Isaac Jansinski had not played lacrosse since the youth level. Hart had him rolling with the second midfield line.

Then, in a junior varsity game, Jasinski hopped in to play as a long-stick midfielder and Hart realized his potential at the position. He scrapped his second midfield line and put Jasinski in as a long-stick middie on varsity to help balance his defense.

The Huskies outscored opponents 70-22 over their next four games.

On offense, the Huskies were a mixed bag of athleticism.

Six players. Two all-state running backs: Chandler Matson and Tim Hart. Two top-line forwards from a state semifinalist hockey team: Chris Boucher and Dominic Dow. The starting point guard from the school’s state semifinalist basketball team: Zack Morrell. The captain of the soccer team: Nick Boucher.

They balanced the score sheet. Nick Boucher was a standout at the faceoff X. This while running without a bench behind them. Nick Boucher, Chris Boucher and Tim Hart all earned second-team Division III All-State honors.

“They are great athletes. They are used to getting out and getting after it,” the Monadnock coach said. “They like to win and they always give it all no matter what sport. Monadnock had some good teams this year; they all had great seasons leading into lacrosse. It all kind of snowballed into this season; the chemistry came about and they gained the confidence to do it.”