Gilford boys' lax reflect on dramatic postseason run
|Senior Andy Upton graduates as the program’s all-time leading scorer for Gilford. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)|
June 27, 2011GILFORD – Dan Kallmerten thought he had a special team on his hands. He just had to convince his players of it.
"I think having had a few days to think about this, I kind of felt from the beginning of the year we had a deep team," said the Gilford boys' lacrosse coach a week after his team lost in the state championship game to Hopkinton. "One of my recurring messages to the team was you just don't know how good you can be this year. I tried to use that as a motivating statement. I'm not sure they really believed it at the time, but as we went along, I think the guys really started to believe in themselves and each other."
The run to the state finals was the deepest in Gilford lacrosse history, and it proved the Golden Eagles were much better than their 8-6 regular season record.
"We played all the good teams before the playoffs," Kallmerten explained. "8-6 wasn't really reflective of the season we had. I think the turning moment was the first round playoff game against Kingswood. I think they went in a little cocky because they had beaten Kingswood, 7-2, in the regular season but that was a deceptive score.
"Before we could blink our eyes, we're down 4-1," he continued. "It was kind of a defining moment. I just remember saying during a timeout, 'It's up to you guys. We can do this, we have the talent to do this.' The rest was kind of history. They turned it around, won that game, and it gave them some confidence."
The playoff run continued with a win in the quarterfinals over Derryfield – another come from behind win – before solidifying a spot in the finals thanks to a win in the semis over Pelham.
"The seniors know – they've been around the block once or twice – if they're determined, good things can happen," said Kallmerten. "I think at end of that Derryfield game, they realized they had beaten one of the best teams in the league and that maybe we can do this, maybe we can win this thing."
Gilford's game with Hopkinton in the finals brought about a disastrous first half, as the Eagles trailed 5-1 at intermission.
"That first quarter was one of our poorer performances of the year, certainly of the playoffs," admitted Kallmerten. "I don't know whether it was nerves or what but we were dropping balls, having trouble passing. If we could play that one over, maybe the game would be different."
Gilford fought back after the half however, as the team got within two goals on several occasions before falling, 8-6.
"In the end, I thought the better team won on that day," Kallmerten said, "but I couldn't have been more proud of the kids. They never gave up and handled themselves incredibly well."
While the loss was difficult, Kallmerten knows his team had nothing to be ashamed of during their postseason run.
"I think everyone was a little subdued on the bus but proud of their achievement," he said of the ride home following the game. "When the dust settled and the sweat dried, they came farther than any other Gilford lacrosse team. It's no disgrace to give your best effort and lose to someone that gave just as good of an effort."
The Eagles lose a massive senior class of 12 players, including some core pieces that were vital in reaching the finals.
Midfielder Andy Upton was named to the first-team all-state squad yet again, as he was right in the middle of all the action, especially in the postseason. Upton set the single-season scoring record this spring and leaves Gilford as the program's all-time leading goal scorer.
"He's a marked man with a bullseye on his chest so to play as well as he has says a lot about Andy," Kallmerten said. "He's not a tremendously loud and vocal leader, he leads more by example. But if someone was covered on the field and had to get the ball to someone else, they knew most times Andy was the most capable."
Nick Gagliardi came back from an early season concussion to have a big impact, blossoming on attack in the playoffs. Fellow attacker Alec Boucher did a nice job occupying defenders, opening up big chunks of space in the process. Forest Aldridge and Christian St. Cyr also came up big with timely goals down the stretch.
The senior class was also well represented on defens , as captain James Seager was a four-year varsity player. Eli Stockwell and Brendan Demo were also part of a unit that gave up just over eight goals per game in the postseason.
Norm Harris got better as games went along in the Gilford net, and Kallmerten considers him one of the better goaltenders in the league.
"We'll end up having to rebuild next year after losing all those seniors," the coach said. "We'll lose a lot of talent both on the field and as reserves. Those guys really made my life easy this year."