By Mac Cerullo
---- — In what was a banner year for boys lacrosse in the Greater Newburyport area, two athletes stood head and shoulders above the rest.
Newburyport junior Matt Kelleher and Triton senior Larry Cuddy each rewrote their respective school’s record books this past season, scoring at an unprecedented pace to help lead their teams to new heights while establishing themselves as not just two of the best players in the Cape Ann League, but two of the best players in the state.
Kelleher set a new single-season scoring record for Newburyport by scoring 84 goals, adding 16 assists to finish the year with an even 100 total points. The record previously belonged to David Nicholson, who scored 72 goals early in the program’s history. Head coach Ed Gaudiano said what made Kelleher’s record so impressive is that he did it with so many others on the team contributing as well.
Cuddy, meanwhile, helped create nearly as many goals as he scored, finishing the season with 72 goals and 65 assists. Cuddy’s 137 total points ranked among the most in the state, and with 285 points in his career, he will leave Triton as the school’s all-time leading scorer by a comfortable margin.
Given that each player had about as productive a season as you could possibly expect out of a high school player, The Daily News is proud to honor both Kelleher and Cuddy as its 2014 Boys Lacrosse Players of the Year.
Throughout the course of the season, Kelleher and Cuddy each routinely put up six or more points per game. Kelleher, for instance, scored eight goals against Wilmington on April 18, eight against Austin Prep on April 23, six against Triton on May 2, seven against Hamilton-Wenham on May 10, including the game winner in double-overtime, and seven against Georgetown on May 22, the day he broke Newburyport’s single season record.
Cuddy, meanwhile, had five goals and three assists against Manchester Essex on April 22, four goals and four assists against Masconomet on April 29, and five goals and four assists against Lynnfield on May 6.
Cuddy also had arguably his best performance in one of the most exciting games played in the Cape Ann League this season. Toward the end of a back and forth battle with Pentucket on May 15, and moments after the Sachems tied the game at 9-9 with 30 seconds left, Cuddy took a massive hit in front of the Pentucket net and was left on the field in a heap.
Despite being in a lot of pain, Cuddy stayed in the game, and after having a shot ring off the post with two seconds left in regulation, Cuddy scored the game-winner within the first minute of overtime to give his team the dramatic 10-9 win. He finished with three goals and two assists overall.
“It was a big moment for me because I’ve always wanted to hit a big shot like that and it finally happened,” Cuddy said.
At the end of the regular season, both players were named to the CAL’s All-League team. They each came up big for their teams in the postseason too, though each of their tournament runs were cut short prematurely.
Triton lost its opening round tournament matchup with Austin Prep 11-10, but not before scaring the daylights out of every Cougar fan in attendance. Down by five goals midway through the second half, the Vikings stormed back and nearly tied it up in the game’s waning minutes.
Cuddy played a major role in the comeback, scoring three straight goals to cut the deficit to two, including one outrageous goal where he broke free of his defender, juked the goalie hard to the left, lost his balance, and then maintained control of his stick while falling down on his back and flicked the ball past the goalie.
“It was wet outside and my feet slipped, so when I fell I just sort of leaned toward the goal,” Cuddy said. “I didn’t think it went in at first so I was kind of mad, but then I turned around and saw it went in, so I got up pretty happy after that.”
Triton continued to press hard to tie the game, but ultimately the Vikings fell one goal short and their season ended with a first-round exit.
As for Kelleher, he scored four goals in the Clippers’ 13-11 come-from-behind victory over Austin Prep in the next round, including the tying goal with about five minutes left. But unfortunately, he went down with a serious knee injury in the team’s North Semifinal matchup with Pentucket; and while Newburyport wound up winning 7-3 anyway, they lost their next game in the North Final to Hamilton-Wenham by one goal.
“I think there’s a chance [we could have won], but you never really know,” Kelleher said about whether things would have been different if he hadn’t gotten hurt. “Hamilton-Wenham is a great team and they played a great game.”
Kelleher later learned that he had torn his ACL, MCL and strained his LCL. He will likely miss most of the upcoming hockey season, but he said he expects to be back in time for lacrosse next spring. If Kelleher is able to return, he will come into the year with 185 career goals and will almost undoubtedly become the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Having wrapped up his high school career, Cuddy will now continue his lacrosse career in college. Cuddy said he had a scholarship offer from Assumption College — a Division II program — but chose instead to go play for the UNH club team, which, he said, is of comparable quality.
Looking back, both Kelleher and Cuddy said they were happy with their performances this year. Besides setting all kinds of new records, each player will also be able to look back and say that they played for the best teams in their school’s history.