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Jun. 10—It began in the third grade at the Cutler Elementary School, two boys with similar athletic interests who lived near each other and hit it off immediately.
That friendship has continued throughout their years in the Hamilton-Wenham school system, and will certainly remain the same when they'll be rooming together as Hobart College freshmen later this summer.
Certainly, the bond between best friends Colby Guyer and Andrew Winch will endure long after they receive their undergraduate diplomas, go off into the work world and start their own families. But in the here and now, there's still some unfinished business for two of Hamilton-Wenham's boys lacrosse captains. They also want to soak up the time they have left wearing the navy blue and white of the Generals.
"If you were playing a sport with your brother, there'd be a natural connection. That's what it's like for Colby and I," said Winch.
The two attackmen are eager to prove that the Generals will rise up to the challenge when the state playoffs begin late last week for the first time in two years. Because their squad was forced to forfeit three early wins for unknowingly using an illegible player and suffered three other losses since then, they're fortunate to have the chance to participate in the postseason because of this year's 'open tournament' format.
Guyer and Winch say they plan on making the most of it.
"The open seeding has given us a calming attitude and helped us build our team confidence. It's almost like having extended spring training before the real thing," said Guyer, who will turn 19 years old on June 26. "Our energy level and confidence will be there; when we have those going, I think it'll be very difficult for teams to beat us."
Winch, the team's leading scorer with 14 goals and 28 assists heading into Wednesday's tilt, said those who traditionally doubt Hamilton-Wenham come playoff time should correct their thinking.
"I honestly think this could be the team with the best potential we've ever had in my time here," said Winch, who is the same height (5-foot-10) as Guyer and at 150 lbs. is about five pounds less. "We've got a great defense, lots of talent on offense, and we're a super emotional team. We take it seriously and get really hyped.
"Everyone doubts H-W in the playoffs, but I really feel this is the year we can turn it around."
Their fellow senior captains, goaltender Grant Landon and midfielder Hunter Bahr, have also been instrumental in their team's success. Following Wednesday's 12-5 win over Manchester Essex, the Generals sport an 'official' 3-6 record due to the earlier forfeits but are 6-3 in on-field contests, having allowed a mere 21 goals in the six on-field triumph's they've achieved. A smart zone defense and a patient attack up front, in which they work the ball around the perimeter before pouncing on opponent's breakdowns for scoring chances, has been a strong formula.
Winch likes to remind his buddy from time to time that it was he who got Guyer into lacrosse.
"We were both playing football at the time, but he wasn't into lax yet," said Winch. "I had a lacrosse practice at Gordon College one day but there were two hours between that and school ending, so we were hanging out and I was trying to convince Colby to give it a try. He ended up showing up with his hockey pads on ... and fell in love with it. Good thing I got him involved, right?"
Guyer, who is second on his team with 15 goals and 20 total points, had thrown the ball around a bit with his dad growing up, but it was at this time he decided to give it a serious shot.
"I'm glad Andrew convinced me," Guyer said with a chuckle. "It's worked out really well for both of us over the years. We're both so competitive, so playing against each other in practice and trying to beat the other guy by scoring more goals or making more moves or whatever helps us both improve. We also have a great connection in games in terms of finding each other in the offensive end and knowing where the other guy will be. It's a great relationship we have."
While it's a happy coincidence Winch and Guyer will both be going to Hobart, it wasn't a conscious decision on either of their parts.
"I saw the school at the beginning of last summer, talked with the golf coach there and we went back and forth," said Winch, who is considering both economics and business as potential majors. "I told Colby I loved the school and it was my first choice, and when he saw it a few weeks later he said the same thing."
Guyer, who will be playing club hockey (and possibly club lacrosse) for the Statesmen, said the college population (around 2,350) was perfect for him coming from a small community such as Hamilton.
"I didn't want my college choice to be based on what my friend was doing, so I tried to keep that out of my thought process. But I truly loved the school, and the fact my best friend is going there is a bonus," said Guyer, who is leaning towards studying business and possibly studying abroad at some point. "The campus really felt like home and had a great vibe; I could see myself there the next four years."
There's also a familiar connection as Cam Guyer, a former Generals' standout now playing football at St. Lawrence University, has been back to help coach the offense for first-year head coach Rich Cooke on the varsity while also working with the JV's.
In addition, Guyer's father Charlie was a standout defender at Beverly High who reached the state final his senior season (1987). The team the Panthers beat in the state semifinals, 8-7 in overtime at Hurd Stadium, happened to be Hingham ... of which Winch's father, Pete, was a big part. — One of the area's better defenders, Jacob Mair of Masconomet not only draws the assignment of guarding the opponent's best player every time out, but also helps direct his teammates on where to go in certain situations. He's even run middie at times when needed.
"It's like having an assistant coach on the field helping us out," said Chieftains head coach Andrew Boepple, his team 5-4 heading into Thursday's home tussle with Peabody (4 p.m.). "Jacob's so smart, he knows the game and is always getting everyone involved in the play verbally, both on the sidelines and the game."
Mair, a senior captain along with attackman Keo Kiriakos, forms a strong back line with fellow senior long poles James Berry, Teddy Fellows and Ryan Kirchner.
The Chieftains would love to gain a measure of revenge against not only the Tanners Thursday but also Beverly on Saturday (noon), both teams they lost to the first time around. Saturday's clash with the Panthers, also at home, will serve as the annual North Shore Cup between the two schools; Masconomet has won six of the previous nine contests, including three straight. — Bishop Fenwick saw its five-game winning streak snapped Wednesday with a 14-6 setback to powerful Austin Prep. Prior to that, Steve Driscoll's squad had won eight of its previous nine games after dropping its first three of the 2021 season.
"We're a much different team than the one that started the season. Everything has clicked in for us," said Driscoll.
Part of that is the return of one of the area's most gifted players, Stefano Fabiano. The senior captain and midfielder has put up 25 points in four games since his return from an injury suffered during the Fall 2 football season; his stickhandling, passing, cutting and especially shot selection open up a world of possibilities for Fenwick offensively.
But it began several weeks before Fabiano's return. Winning faceoffs and setting up offensively or scoring quickly in transition both worked; so did using their overall team speed to not only get the ball into scoring range rapidly, but also out of their own end thanks to a stout defense and ground ball scooping ability.
Liam Hill has been an offensive beast; the senior attack has 42 goals and 51 points. Sophomore Manny Alvarez-Segee (18 goals, 15 assists) and senior middie Aiden Anthony (22 goals, 11 assists) have both shown off their offensive wares, with middies such as Anthony Sasso (9 goals, 8 assists), Max Grenert, Brady McClung and Tyler Mullen can be counted on both offensively and defensively.
Driscoll said much of their recent success has to do with being in the proper mindset on the field at all times.
"We constantly harp on having that 0-0 mentality. In other words, it doesn't matter what just happened the play before, or what's going to happen on the next play. Focus on the play that's happening right now; that's it," said Driscoll. "We just constantly have to stay in the moment and act like it's a 0-0 game. That's what will lead to success."
It may also seem like common sense, but the defensive work of players like senior LSM (and captain) Jake Connolly, fellow seniors Liam Foley and Nick Sasso, junior Nick Wesley and the return of another big-time difference maker, 11th grader Kevin Wood in front of senior goalkeeper George Kostolias (133 saves), who focus on keeping their foes at arm's length and pushing them away from the net, has proven effective more often than not.
"We keep them away from Georgie and move them out towards the perimeter, than means other teams are taking lower quality shots," said Driscoll. "That's the goal."
Leadership is also a hallmark of this squad; not only has Fabiano carried that mantle virtually from the time he was a freshman, but others such as Grenert (basketball), Foley (soccer), Anthony (hockey) and Connolly (football) have also served as captains in various sports for Fenwick this school year.
Fenwick has what should be a terrific rematch with St. Mary's of Lynn this Friday night (7 p.m.) on the road in the Catholic Central League Cup playoff quarterfinals. Anthony's fourth goal of the afternoon gave the Crusaders a 15-14 overtime win over the Spartans three days ago. — Lax Lowdown, a column on North Shore boys high school lacrosse, appears each Thursday in The Salem News. Contact Executive Sports Editor Phil Stacey at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PhilStacey_SN