By Bruce Lerch
WESTWOOD – Star players are expected to produce, even when it’s as early as a team’s season opener. Getting major contributions from several untested newcomers in a big game, however, gives Lincoln-Sudbury every reason to feel confident about its fortunes going forward.
Attackmen Nick Brindisi and Eric Holden picked up where they left off season as Brindisi finished with four goals and three assists with Holden adding a hat trick and an assist. Midfielder Harlan Smart also turned in a strong game with four goals to help the Warriors take a 13-9 victory over Xaverian Saturday afternoon at the Hawk Bowl.
Those three players are expected to shoulder the load on offense, but it was the play of faceoff midfielder Junior Almeida and goalie Trevor Van Leer that opened a lot of eyes. L-S has historically struggled in the faceoff game, but Almeida showed things may be different this year, leading the way to a 16-10 edge on draws. Van Leer stopped 14 shots against a talented Xaverian offense and also excelled in the clearing game and backing up shots.
“Trevor made the saves he was supposed to make and they shot the ball pretty well at him,” Warriors coach Brian Vona said. “I’m happy with him and happy with Junior as our faceoff guy. Our offense played okay. We executed a few times well but we really let them in the door several times by not being patient. Our defense played well. Their kid (Sean) Sperzel is very good and very poised, I like him a lot, but we did a good job against him. For me its No. 1 (Almeida) and No. 33 (Van Leer) that did the job for us. Those kids were unproven and they’re proven now.”
The Hawks (1-2) were playing without top attackman and Ohio State commit Lukas Buckley, who suffered an unfortunate ACL tear in Xaverian’s season-opening loss to BC High. Midfielder Peter Thorbahn paced the Hawks with three goals while Sean Sperzel, Nick Shaw and Zach Bloom each added a pair.
The turning point of the game occurred late in the first half. Xaverian had just taken a 5-4 lead on Thorbahn’s second score. Holden responded with two straight to give L-S the lead, then Smart unleashed a bullet from the alley to make it a 7-5 game at the half.
The Warriors kept the momentum into the third as Brindisi tallied twice and Smart ripped home another rocket to cap a 6-0 run and push the L-S lead to 10-5.
“Everybody was really excited coming in today,” Holden said. “We’ve been anticipating this game for a while now and Xaverian beating us twice in the last two years gave us a lot of motivation. Everybody was fired up, everybody came out and everybody did their job. We’re excited to get this win.”
Smart’s production was of particular importance, as the senior is expected to take the lead role in the midfield. Vona has been hoping to see him add a little bit of an attitude to his game, and Smart played with confidence and a bit of an edge against Xaverian.
“That’s been a big focus for me over the offseason,” Smart admitted when asked about the edge to his play. “Coach has been wanting me to play more angry and be a leader as much as I can. One of the big things today was Junior Almeida and all the faceoff guys getting ground , that was huge motivation for our bench and it translated into a lot of energy on the offensive side of the field.
The Hawks made one final push of their own, getting two goals from Shaw and another from Thorbahn around Brindisi’s fourth to cut the deficit to 11-8, but the Warriors tacked on one more each from Smart and Holden and allowed just one more goal by Sperzel with 4:32 left to finish it off.
“Me and Holden, we know each other well,” Brindisi explained after the attack duo combined for 11 points. ” We’re just looking for each other coming off picks. We’re not trying to score, we’re trying to look for the open guy. We had a lot of new guys stepping up too, it’s not just us. They’re finding us all over the field.”