I had been hearing rave reviews about the ISL for quite some time. Considered to be a top five private school league in the country, New England’s Independent School League (consisting of teams in MA, RI and NH) has produced a ton of college commitments and top talent.
When it came to my attention that Friday’s day trip to Boston to film with Lax Sports Network coincided with a marquee rivalry game between St. Sebastian’s (Mass.) and Noble & Greenough (Mass.), I jumped at the opportunity to see what the league was all about and came away impressed.
Nobles jumped out to a 5-1 halftime lead and held the Arrows scoreless for long stretches of time, pulling out a pivotal confidence-boosting 8-6 victory to begin league play. It was the Bulldogs’ first win over Sebs in their previous three meetings.
“We’d been building towards this moment for three weeks and the kids answered the call,” said Noble & Greenough head coach Matt Rowley, who also leads 3d Lacrosse’s club teams. “We don’t have a playoff, so this is like English Premier League soccer, you gotta win the table. For us, this was the first of 15 championship games so it’s good to get this one.”
The first quarter was mostly a feeling out process, taking Nobles until the 3:53 mark to score, which they did twice in a minute’s time courtesy of Danny Jacobs (Middlebury hockey) and Jett Dziama. Sebs quickly responded with an inside roll tally from talented Cornell recruit John Piatelli (four goals) on what would be the Arrows’ last goal for nearly 20 minutes.
From there, Nobles kept rolling. Sophomore midfielder Nick Loring (Princeton) scored on a hard alley dodge, losing his man then nailing a bouncer before his Harvard-bound older brother, George, canned an outside shot to make it 4-1. Jacobs scored off a Hayden Cheek assist to go up 5-1 at half and then 6-2 after three quarters.
It was a highly impressive performance from the Bulldogs’ defense between the shorties, corps of longsticks and junior goalie McCrae Williams (Lafayette), who finished with 10 saves. Matt Rowley said after the game that a big part of the gameplay was to be ready for the rollback and to help on the back side – and they were. The slides were on point and the Nobles D often forced the Arrows to their weak hand and low angle shots.
However, Sebs came out in the fourth quarter clicking offensively while the defense buckled down, led by excellent play by standout freshman Will Frisoli, who had several takeaways and groundballs on the day. Defensively, they also received great performances from Kevin Boland (Trinity), uncommitted junior standout Eric Jeremiah and sophomore goalie Alex Gainey (Holy Cross), among others.
Continuing an excellent performance, Piatelli scored at the 9:41 mark and again at 5:38 to make it a four-goal game before the play of the day occurred. After some excellent ball movement on that particular possession, Jacobs tossed a beautiful behind-the-back pass to a cutting Watson Cheek (Harvard) for the finish with 2:40 remaining.
Piatelli countered for Sebs to make it 7-5 but then a deep bomb from Nick Loring assisted by his brother put the game out of reach. Jack Frisoli (Harvard) stung a nasty shot on the run into the top corner and Sebs won the next face-off, but it was too late. Despite Nobles only taking three total shots in the final quarter, they were able to run the clock out and hold on to a win that will likely provide some momentum.
“It’s definitely difficult in lacrosse when it comes down to the end but it’s a game of possession time,” remarked Danny Jacobs, a senior captain. “Once we had it, we were just looking to hold onto it and if the opportunity presented itself, put it in the net.”
On the defensive end, sophomore Jake Calnan (Ivy League) and senior Josh White (Bowdoin) deserve to be singled out for making life easier for Williams in cage, though it was a team effort to limit an Arrow offense loaded with high D1 verbals.
Now 3-0 on the year, Nobles will have a tough stretch with upcoming games at Thayer Academy (4/13) and Middlesex (4/16) before a home bout against Roxbury Latin on the 20th. St. Sebastian’s, meanwhile, will have a slightly easier slate against Lawrence Academy, Groton, St. George’s and St. Paul’s School between now and the 21st.