SWANZEY CENTER — The Huskies seniors know this is their last chance.
Chris Boucher, Chandler Matson, Tim Hart, Isaac Jasinski, Dominic Dow, Cole Elfreich and Greyson Bolewski form a core group of veterans that have all been with the Monadnock boys’ lacrosse team for multiple seasons, and they want to go out as state champs.
They have the pedigree for it, too: Matson, Hart, Jasinski and Elfreich won a state title with the football team in the fall, and Boucher, Jasinski, Elfreich and Dow led the boys’ hockey team to a state runner-up in the winter.
Their first trial comes Saturday at 5 p.m., when the third-seeded Huskies host sixth-seeded Trinity in the Division III quarterfinals. With Monadnock’s football field still in bad shape after a lengthy fall season, the game will be played on a cleared-out section of the campus’ baseball outfield.
“The key players are seniors, and now the season is you win or you go home, and they know it,” Monadnock Coach Rob Hart said. “This (team) is very heavy football/hockey-type guys, and they’re used to winning … they handle pressure well.”
Despite being the lower seed, the Pioneers present a strong challenge for the Huskies.
Monadnock did beat Trinity at home on May 15, but the 13-9 victory marked the Huskies’ third-narrowest margin of victory this season.
“We came in flat, I think they scored the first couple,” Hart said. “A lot of plays were just poor execution on defense, and I think the individual players kind of know what happened in those situations, so we tried to clean that up this week.”
Hart said the Pioneers run an open-formation, “basketball-type” offense, with lots of picks, cuts and off-the-ball movement that puts one-on-one defenders to the test.
Elfreich and Jasinski anchor the Huskies defense, with help from juniors Jackson Lepisto and Tom Pouliot. Also presenting strong coverage abilities are Matson, Tim Hart and sophomore Justin Joslyn, transferring over their abilities as linebackers from the gridiron.
“They’ve got some guys that can catch and pass. They aren’t a heavy dodging team,” Rob Hart said of Trinity. “It’s really us keeping them out on the perimeter and running with them when they cut through and staying with your man and good positional defense and lots of talk. Just good, steady defense.”
On the offensive side, Monadnock brings a varied style that takes advantage of its multiple scoring threats and looks for the best matchup.
Matson was the go-to guy when the Huskies last played Trinity, recording four goals and one assist, but it could just as easily be Boucher — who had four games with at least five goals this season and one with 10 — or Tim Hart or Joslyn or Dow who steps up.
“With the different looks and the different formations we use, different guys become the key guys,” Rob Hart said. “So if they’re gearing in on one guy, then we just kind of change formation and put somebody else in more of a position to score or run the offense.”
It’s been over a week since the Huskies wrapped up the regular season with a 23-0 thumping of Stevens on May 23 (for comparison, the Monadnock baseball team waited just six days after the end of the regular season before starting the playoffs, while the softball team waited five). In that long span of off time, the team mixed rest with preparation.
The day before the Stevens game, the Huskies climbed Mount Monadnock as a team, and the day after they played kickball and dodgeball together. After Memorial Day weekend, they got straight to practice, prepping for their quarterfinal opponent and placing a special emphasis on conditioning before starting their playoff run.
“We’re a very thin team,” Hart said. “In a game, we’re running probably 12 deep a lot of games. Some games we’ve gone as low as 10 deep. So it’s huge for us, the conditioning has to be there.”
Monadnock has made the playoffs every year since its first varsity season in 2007, and after back-to-back trips to the semifinals and a 12-2 regular season this spring, the team is feeling confident about its championship odds.
But after witnessing their classmates on the third-seeded Huskies baseball team suffer a first-round upset loss to 14th-seeded Prospect Mountain on Thursday, they know nothing is guaranteed, and they need to focus on the opponent in front of them.
“I know they feel like they can make it back there, and hopefully we can win the whole thing, but it’s one game at a time right now,” Hart said.