WEST SPRINGFIELD >> Four days removed from a stunning comeback in the Central/Western Massachusetts Division III semifinals, the Mount Greylock boys lacrosse team could not recreate the late-game spark needed to come from behind again.
Grafton out-scored Greylock by six goals in the second half, adding two empty-net goals late for a 14-6 win in the Central/Western Mass. championship on Saturday at West Springfield. The win clinches the Warriors' second straight Division III title.
Trailing by four with 7 minutes and 46 seconds remaining in the game, Greylock coach Brandon Asplundh signaled his team to switch to a pressure defense, needing to force a turnover and convert quick goals on the other end. The turnovers never came, as the Warriors displayed strong ball control throughout, winning the turnover battle by a 23-15 margin.
"We had to play a really complete game against Grafton and we didn't do that," Asplundh said. "We had too many turnovers. We made too many poor decisions and they were really dominant on face-offs. Once they got a lead, it was very, very hard to come back on them.
"When we were forced to try and get the ball back, that made it easier for our opponent [to score]. But those were the risks we had to take."
When the Mounties did dislodge the ball, the Warriors were often in position to scoop it up and continue the possession.
The Warriors dominated possession and their midfield did a good job of slowing down the Mounties attack in transition. Forced into a half-field game, Greylock could not get the quick-strike goals it had generated all season.
Sean McCormack put Greylock ahead less than a minute into the game off a feed from Thomas Astle. Grafton responded, however, ending the first quarter on a 3-0 run. The defending champs would not trail again.
Reilly Parker tried to rally the troops late in the second quarter, scoring three straight goals for Greylock, including two in the final minute of the half, cutting Grafton's lead to 7-5. But again, Grafton answered starting the third quarter with a goal.
In a sequence that summed up much of the game, Cal Filson stopped Thomas Fraser's initial shot with a well-time block, but the rebound bounced right back to Fraser, allowing him to scoop and score.
Pat Storie scored Greylock's final goal late in the third. Kyle Bazonski made a strong hustle play, diving to poke the ball to Owen Politis. Politis found Storie all alone, and Storie beat Grafton goalie Cadrin Msumba in the one-on-one situation for the goal. Storie finished with two goals and two assists. Astle had three assists and Parker had three goals. Fraser led Grafton with six goals.
The spread out scoring is a departure from an offense that centered around All-American Mike McCormack last season. Grafton head coach Alan Rotatori said Greylock's switch in philosophy was impressive.
"I thought they played a much different game today then they have the last couple years," he said. "They lost one of their star players last year. ... So now they're more team-oriented. You could see that in the X's and O's. [Asplundh] is doing a great job with a pretty young group of kids."
Filson finished his Greylock career with nine saves. Unfortunately for the senior, he ended the game playing man defense, trying to generate a turnover, leading to the empty net goals. Filson said Grafton's tendencies have not changed much over the last three years, but solid execution made the difference.
"We knew coming into today we were playing a good Grafton team, probably the best one we've seen so far in the past three years," he said. "We had to play our best game to keep it challenging and perhaps beat them. We didn't quite do that today. We didn't play terribly, but we didn't play well enough to beat them."
The graduation of Filson — a member of Greylock's 2014 Central/Western Mass. championship team — and the departure of Asplundh, who accepted the athletic director position at his alma mater, The Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn, Pa., signals the end of an era for Greylock lacrosse.
However, with only two seniors on the roster (Filson and defender Zach Ronnow), the cupboard is far from bare for the Mounties.
Grafton goals — Hunter Fraser 6, Matt O'Brien 2, Cole Fontana 2, Chase Kapuscienski 2, Brenden Coates 1, Tony D'Angelo 1. Grafton assists — Coates 2, Kapuscienski 1, Ryan Tyldesley 1, D'Angelo 1.
Greylock goals — Reilly Parker 3, Pat Storie 2, Sean McCormack 1. Greylock assists — Thomas Astle 3, Storie 2, Owen Politis 1.
Saves — Greylock: Cal Filson 9. Grafton: Cadrin Msumba 7.
Contact Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252