Boys Lacrosse Wins First State Championship In Program History

David Creed •

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Photo by Chris Tran

For the first time in 13 years, a Nantucket sports team has won a state championship. The top-seeded Whalers beat the #3 seeded Sandwich Blue Knights 7-6 Saturday afternoon to win the MIAA Div. 4 state championship. The last Nantucket sports team to win a state championship of any kind was the 2011 Whaler football team when they beat Boston Latin Academy in the Super Bowl.

“I still can’t believe it,” senior captain Cole Chambers said. “I can’t believe this is happening right now. It is crazy. This is what we all dreamed of and worked for our whole lives.”

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Photo by Chris Tran

“This means everything to be honest. One last ride with my brothers,” senior midfielder Ryan Davis said. “I grew up playing with these kids every day, every season, and these brothers were always by my side. It means everything to be with them through this entire thing. I mean I wish Braden (Knapp) could be here with us. This is for him. This is for everybody. This is for the whole Nantucket community.”

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Ryan Davis cutting the net. Photo by Chris Tran

“After hockey season, we jokingly said we were going to see Sandwich in the finals (in lacrosse),” senior captain Griffin Starr said. “We kind of just wrote it up as a joke but this honestly could not have been written up any better. The last three years Sandwich has made it to this game and now they go home sad for the third time in a row.”

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Photo by Chris Tran

The Whalers struck first on the scoreboard when sophomore midfielder Arann Hanlon made it a 1-0 game with 1:46 to go in the first quarter. The lead was short-lived however, as Sandwich quickly tied the game to make it 1-1 after the game’s first 12 minutes.

Sandwich’s Cole Rodgers scored a filthy, behind the back goal to give the Blue Knights a 2-1 lead 57 seconds into the second, but Chambers answered two minutes later to make it 2-2 with 9:20 to go in the first half.

“We were a little sloppy and we threw some balls away,” Nantucket head coach Sam Aloisi said. “We also made some really bad mistakes. Some really uncharacteristic stuff but overall, they played well. We knew it would be a tough, physical game. It had to be low scoring for us to win. The defense stepped up and played great. We lost Hunter (Strojny, senior defender and captain) early (to injury), but Canton (Jenkinson) and Owen (Sullivan) stepped up in a big way. We had a few lapses in those first few goals.”

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Photo by Chris Tran

Throughout the game, Whaler sophomore goalie Jeremy Jenkinson was sensational. He finished with nine saves on the scorecard, but it was undoubtedly more. Jenkinson stepped up over and over for his team – making several elite stops at timely moments.

“It was a good thing I saw it well because yesterday I wasn’t seeing it well in practice so I was a little nervous,” Jenkinson admitted. “But today, I saw it pretty good. Means everything to win it for the community and the boys.”

“That might have been one of the best games Jeremy has ever had,” Starr said. “He stepped up and is just a great kid. I say he deserves to be league MVP and I say that with no disrespect to Logan Poulin (star Nauset midfielder), but Jeremy has to be up there.”

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Jeremy Jenkinson leaping into the air after the final buzzer sounded. Photo by Chris Tran

The two teams went back and forth for several minutes after Chambers scored the equalizer until Chambers tallied his second goal of the game with 2:53 to go in the half to make it 3-2 Nantucket. It appeared as the final seconds came off the clock that the Whalers would hold a one goal lead going into halftime.

But Sandwich had different ideas. They gained possession with 9.5 seconds left and out of a timeout, quickly moved it up field to score with 3.5 seconds remaining – making it 3-3 at halftime.

The third quarter consisted of strong defense and even better goaltending from Jenkinson and Blue Knight’s goalie Shane Corcoran. It wasn’t until there were 44 seconds left on the clock that Nantucket senior attacker Colby O’Keefe broke the tie and made it a 4-3 game.

“I’m ready to go celebrate. That was a great game. The boys played out of their minds,” O’Keefe said. “We could have played better, but the boys came through with the win and that’s all that matters. I was hyped after that goal. I dodged on a kid which I rarely do and scored after it, so I got super psyched after that.

“Ending our high school careers on a dub doesn’t happen to many people,” O’Keefe added. “It only happens to one team in our division, and that’s us. So we are excited about it.”

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The Nantucket seniors from left to right: Griffin Starr, Jack Halik, Cole Chambers, Paddy Carroll, Ryan Davis, Michael Culkins, Kinnick King, and Colby O'Keefe. Photo by Chris Tran

Sandwich tied the game with 9:01 left in the fourth and got an incredible kick save from Corcoran with 7:30 remaining to keep it tied up at four. It was a moment in the game where it felt Sandwich could finally take control of the play.

But sophomore attacker Nolen Mosscrop, who battled injuries late in the season, found a way to make a pair of plays at the end of the game and scored the game’s next two goals to make it 6-4 with 4:04 to go.

Sandwich never stopped battling back. They made it a 6-5 game with 3:07 to go, but Hanlon got the Whaler lead back up to two when he made it 7-5 17 seconds later.

Sandwich’s Avery Richardson cut the lead to 7-6 with 22.6 seconds remaining and with eight seconds left, Sandwich had possession in Nantucket’s end. They rushed the net and got a shot off, but the shot grazed the arm of Jenkinson, and the Whalers were able to milk the rest of the clock.

"I was like 'Oh no' and was definitely a little nervous at the end there but I knew the boys had it and would come through," Jenkinson said of that final sequence of the game.

“Jeremy gets overlooked because he is so consistently good,” Aloisi said. “In that first half Sandwich could have had two or three more goals but he made some really nice saves. He has just been solid all year.”

Aloisi, who has coached the Whaler’s program for 11 years, said it feels good to win the first state title of his coaching career with this group of players.

“This is awesome, and this is the group to do it with,” he said. “They deserve it. If anybody does, it is these guys. They put in a lot of time, a lot of commitment. This is a fitting end for these seniors. They earned it. They earned it all.”

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Nantucket head coach Sam Aloisi won his first state championship on Saturday. Above he is with seniors Michael Culkins, Griffin Starr, Hunter Strojny, and Cole Chambers. Photo by Chris Tran

Aloisi felt the Whaler’s lone loss this season, which came against Falmouth on April 9 13-6, was one of two turning points for this team. He also pointed to the Whaler's narrow 7-6 victory over King Philip on May 5.

“We went away and we got embarrassed over there,” Aloisi said. “Then Falmouth came over, these guys woke up, and we beat them. Then we went away and we're down 6-4 to King Philip in the fourth quarter but come back and win that game. That was when it was looking like these guys were for real. They had made up their minds of what they wanted to do and what they wanted to be. After that King Philip game, that is when I felt like they may be able to win the state championship. When we scheduled it, we did so as sort of a reach game and these guys came back to win it with Owen Sullivan (junior midfielder) out.

“They missed all their graduation stuff and festivities last night like that graduation party last night at the beach, but they got a bigger one tonight,” Aloisi added.

Below are more photos taken by Chris Tran.

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