Fans of the Wellesley Raiders boys lacrosse team have seen it fall into a trend each of the past four seasons.
Typically, the team plays at a high level throughout the regular season while earning one of the top MIAA tournament seeds in the East Division 2 bracket, steam rolls its way through a couple of rounds, until ultimately having its season end at the hands of the Medfield Warriors.
To add insult to injury, Medfield has also handed the Raiders three regular season losses over that time.
Despite the team not posting a win against the Warriors since 2006, Wellesley head coach Rocky Batty sees the Medfield games as a measuring stick for where his program is at, he said. He was encouraged by the Raiders’ 10-9 loss in last year’s quarter-finals.
But Batty has reason to feel great about his club right now. Two days after beating a Billerica team that has long been regarded as one of the top lacrosse programs in the state, the Raiders gave Medfield its first loss of the season with an 8-5 win last Saturday.
“Going into Medfield, I felt like the kids were feeling, 'Let’s take care of business today,'” Batty said earlier this week. “They weren’t as emotional as they used to be when we played Medfield, there was a different mentality coming in.
He said keeping that emotion level stable has been a key factor this season.
“I think this year the mentality is much more about let’s be a little more business-like, a little more workman-like, and let our celebrations happen if we do very well,” he said.
Many key components have returned from last year’s team, which after a sluggish 5-6 start, ripped off nine straight wins to close out the regular season. That momentum seems to be carrying over to this year for those returning veterans, as the Raiders have amassed three wins against teams with a combined 7-3 record.
The first six losses of last season came against some of the state’s best competition; therefore, Batty's outlook on the slow start is positive.
“When you just look at our record, it felt like a whole lot of speed bumps," he said. "The truth is, that’s when we were getting better. We were playing high-level competition as instead of scheduling down we scheduled up, but we were competitive in every one of those games. That was the momentum that led us through the year and intro the tournament.”
The difference so far this year is that Wellesley is winning those non-league games against some of the state’s best. The Raiders are currently ranked sixth in the state by CBS sports.
The depth of this team is enough to make a head coach drool, not to mention the chemistry that exists between a group of young men that have been playing together for years. That is in large part thanks to the fantastic relationship the varsity and youth programs shared during former coach Chris Gelina regime, which has transitioned nicely over to Batty.
The Raiders travel to Dedham tonight, before taking part in the Coach’s Challenge Cup over April vacation, which kicks off with Wellesley taking on Winchester Tuesday at Lincoln-Sudbury High School.
Things won’t be getting any easier after that, as Bay State Conference play resumes with an April 26 home date versus the Needham Rockets. With the stiff competition Wellesley is up against in the season’s opening weeks, fans should have a good idea of where the team stands in the state by May 1.