The Newburyport boys lacrosse team is warming up to a good season, and a big part of that heat will be coming from a pair of sophomore attackers, Mike Shay and Matt Kelleher.
“They’re still young,” Clippers coach Ed Gaudiano said of his second-year attackers. “But we are relying on them heavily because we lost some good offensive players from last year. They’ve got to pull the wagon a little bit.”
Shay scored 40 goals in his freshman season last year, while Kelleher was no slouch with 33. Newburyport is 3-1 after going 15-3 last season.
“(I didn’t expect that) at all,” Shea said. “Matt and Pete Witherbee were a big help. They always found me on the field. Most of my goals came from them. I really didn’t have any unassisted.”
This year, it’s the reverse as Kelleher has 20 goals on the young season while Shay is sitting on 12.
“Really, it’s just the other kids,” said Kelleher. “I’m just open a lot. With Mike and the other attacker, Nick (Federico). They just find me open a lot.”
Federico, a junior, says Kelleher might be selling himself short.
“Matt’s just a powerhouse,” Federico said. “He just takes the ball and drives straight to the net and puts it in there.”
Gaudiano sees Kelleher’s progression as a natural thing.
“From last year to this year, he’s gotten bigger, he’s gotten stronger,” Gaudiano said. “He’s a guy we can get the ball to whenever we get down the field, and he has a tendency to rule out the guys who are trying to defend him.”
Playing defense for the Clippers in hockey allows Kelleher
a chance to see things from another perspective in lacrosse.
“It’s a lot different,” Kelleher said. “I really like attack for lacrosse because with defense for hockey, you do the dirty work in the corners. It’s good to get on the other side where you get to watch the defense do what you do in hockey, and then you get to get the ball and get the goals. It’s a good transition. It’s good to get the goals. It’s fun.”
One interesting development: As attackers in lacrosse, Shay and Kelleher often have time to make idle conversation with the opposing team’s defensemen.
“They sometimes try to say stuff to you,” Shay said. “Usually they just try to start conversations. They ask you how your season is going. Until you get the ball, then they’re your worst enemy.”
Shay plays basketball in the offseason, but it’s his position as quarterback in football that seems to inform him the most in lacrosse, often dropping back behind the net to get a good read of the field.
“He’s a smart player,” Federico said of Shay. “He makes plays for himself. So, he’ll look at what people are doing, and he’ll move to where the open space is. He makes himself available to put goals in.”
“I think what happens is,” said Gaudiano, “if you’re able to have a whole field of vision, it definitely helps you from the quarterback slot and definitely in lacrosse as well.”
With the meat of the season still to come, Federico is happy to have these two underclassmen with him up front.
“They’re both very good and reliable,” Federico said. “So, if I I give it to them, they know what to do. They have to worry about me, I don’t have to worry about them.”