DANVERS — As far as St. John’s Prep lacrosse coach John Pynchon sees it, the Eagles have been in tournament mode for two weeks.
The No. 6 Eagles needed to win their last four regular-season games just to qualify for the tournament with a 9-9 record. So once the postseason started, Wednesday’s Division 1 North first-rounder wasn’t any different than what the Eagles had experienced.
“Having to put on a push at the end of the season prepared us,” said Pynchon after The Prep defeated Westford Academy, 8-2, to advance to the quarterfinals. The Eagles will play at No .3 Acton-Boxborough Saturday (5).
Wednesday’s game was a curious one. The Prep bunched its goals evenly, in more ways than one. The Eagles scored four goals in the first and third quarters, and none in the second and fourth.
Two Eagle players — Brian Penney and Jack Rickards — scored hat tricks (Craig Yannone and Dan DeLaus scored the others). And Yannone was 11-for-11 on faceoffs.
The Eagles were never seriously threatened. In fact, after St. John’s 4-goal splurge (two by Penney and one each by Yannone and Rickards) in the first quarter, the Gray Ghosts went into the type of of zone defense normally seen at a college basketball game, with the Eagles acting like North Carolina implementing the Dean Smith four-corners offense.
“We slowed down,” said Pynchon, “but that was why, though I have to say that playing a zone when you’re up by four goals isn’t so bad. Playing against it when you’re behind, and you’re trying to catch up, is very difficult.”
The Ghosts got the only goal of the second quarter on a shot by Cam Barsano, but Pynchon wasn’t anxious to play keep-away for the final 24 minutes. At halftime, he exhorted his players to put on the same kind of push they’d put on in the first quarter, and the troops answered the call.
“Before you knew it,” he said, “it was 8-1.”
Penny got things rolling a little over four minutes into the third quarter when DeLaus converted from about 10 feet out front. Penney completed his hat trick with 5:57 to go in the quarter, and then Rickards scored two quick goals only eight seconds apart to make it 8-1. Both goals were essentially off the same plays, with Rickards rotating to the front of the net, taking a pass, and scoring.
By the fourth quarter, it was all over but the shouting.
“We had a couple of chances,” said Pynchon, “but we couldn’t convert. Also, we were substituting pretty freely by then too.”
Pynchon feels the struggles the Eagles faced earlier this season are behind them.
“Our goal,” he said, “is to be playing our best lacrosse now. That’s always our goal. (Records such as) 9-9, 10-9, they don’t mean anything now.
“What matters is how we’re playing now,” he said. “Everything we did this season, every loss, prepared us for what we’re facing now.”
Pynchon also had high praise for Robbie Densmore, “who had an exceptional game, especially with ground balls.
“Our defense in general played excellent,” he said.