Boys’ lacrosse: With a different level of energy and focus, MV feels primed for success

Merrimack Valley midfielder Carter Lankhorst is chased by Spaulding players Seth Cortina (left) and Thomas McGeehan during first half action on Tuesday.

Merrimack Valley midfielder Carter Lankhorst is chased by Spaulding players Seth Cortina (left) and Thomas McGeehan during first half action on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Spaulding defenseman Jayden Peverada chases Merrimack Valley attacker Nolan Beck during first half action on Tuesday, April 16, 2024.

Spaulding defenseman Jayden Peverada chases Merrimack Valley attacker Nolan Beck during first half action on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Merrimack Valley attacker Conner Hanson falls to the ground while dislodging the ball from two Spaulding defenders during the first half on Tuesday, April 16, 2024.

Merrimack Valley attacker Conner Hanson falls to the ground while dislodging the ball from two Spaulding defenders during the first half on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 04-16-2024 8:25 PM

Modified: 04-17-2024 9:22 AM


PENACOOK — Merrimack Valley head coach Sean Gill knew something was different about his team this year when 15 of his 25 players wanted to interview to be a team captain.

Only four were ultimately chosen, but so far, Gill’s had a whole sideline he can count on to step up as leaders. Tuesday’s 12-0 win over Spaulding (0-2) was the latest example. The Pride (1-1) jumped out to a 9-0 lead by halftime and cruised to the win.

“I think they came out ready and prepared,” Gill said. “I don't like living in the past, but in the past, we had a hard time showing up to games before we even got here. This team is definitely embracing the fact that we can compete.”

Sophomore Colin Reardon led MV with four goals, while junior Conner Hanson added a hat trick, freshman Carter Lankhorst won 11 of 12 faceoffs and junior goalie Michael Kingsbury turned in a shutout between the pipes.

Kingsbury’s play, as a first-year varsity starter, has been a particular point of optimism for the Pride.

“His freshman year was his first time ever playing lacrosse,” Gill said. “He came up. He gave me goals that he had for the season. Started going to camps. He picked a stick up on his own free time. Played indoor. He’s just a guy who I think has risen to the occasion. One of our captains, too, and I think he’s just risen to that. He’s understanding that he has a lot to bring to the team not only in leadership, but also on the field.”

Last season, the Pride finished 4-10 and didn’t qualify for the Division II playoffs. This year, Gill believes his group is more than playoff-worthy and can compete up and down the division. It’s still early, but things have looked positive so far. A key area on Tuesday was MV’s ability to fire shots on net, something that was a bit of a weakness last year. That, combined with strong defensive play, look to be strengths for the Pride in 2024.

“We would literally go some games with 12 shots, and you can’t win games (that way),” Gill said. “I really like our defense. I thought that they stayed very composed. (Spaulding was) working the ball around, but it wasn’t super dangerous, and our defense recognized that and was able to capitalize on it. I think overall, we’re finally playing as a team, stuff that winning teams do.”

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Gill’s approached his second year in this role as varsity head coach with more wisdom, he said, more direct with making sure he’s connecting with the players and that they’re connecting with each other. The benefits are starting to show.

“I’d love to say me and the coaches came in and did something amazing this year, but the truth is we came in, and we let them know time and time again that we love them and we believe in them,” he said. “We know that they can compete, but they have to believe it too.”