Lacrosse notebook: Burlington boys ready for test

BURLINGTON — The crowds were immense.

The sounds were deafening.

Meanwhile, Nolan Jennings and a handful of his teammates were simply leaning over the fence, watching last year’s MIAA lacrosse championships unfold.

On their own turf, no less.

“We were looking at that (with intensity),” Jennings said. “We were happy with what we did last year, but we wanted to make ourselves better, be ready for next year.”

The 2023 title games at Burlington High School left a stinging sensation, but they also offered motivation. Why couldn’t the Red Devils compete among them?

“They got to see the quality of play, and what was available to them,” said Burlington lacrosse coach Brenden Maney. “So I think they just dedicated themselves to seeing if they can get to that point. Can they be that type of team? They’ve done a really good job so far of putting themselves in a position to do that.”

Maney, a former lacrosse athlete himself from John Pirani’s Winchester program, took over Burlington’s boys lacrosse program in 2019. With each passing year, the Red Devils began to see their system improve.

Was it odd, joining a Middlesex League archrival?

“They just adopted me,” chuckled Maney.

The Red Devils are starting to see the fruits of their labor pay off. Burlington made the drop to Div. 3 prior to this spring along with a few other noteworthy schools. Maney believes the switch has helped his group in a variety of ways.

“It’s definitely benefited us this season,” said Maney. “In regards to looking at the power rankings in Div. 2, I think we would (seeded) be somewhere between No. 12, No. 13, something like that. In Div. 3… I think we will be somewhere between Nos. 4, 5, 6 or 7. I don’t know how it’s all going to fall out. Hopefully, it will allow us to have a couple of home games, then have the opportunity to go on the road and play those great teams.”

In the latest MIAA power rankings released Friday, Burlington was fifth overall in Div. 3. The Red Devils are now looking to verify their impressive 14-4 record — the best in the program’s 50 years of existence.

Burlington dropped its first two games of the season to a pair of perennial juggernauts, faltering to last year’s Div. 2 champion Reading (a 9-8 loss April 2), followed by a grueling 17-6 defeat at the hands of Acton-Boxboro (on April 7).

Then, the Red Devils caught fire, winning 11 of their next 12 games. The school bowled through its league schedule.

“I’d say, honestly, that the motivation is that we had a lot of people come back,” Jennings said. “We had a lot of our team players come back. We just want to make it better than last year, to send our seniors off.”

The Red Devils concluded the regular season with an outstanding 15-13 victory over North Andover, during which they overcame a four-goal deficit to open the fourth quarter. Charlie Andriolo (four goals, two assists) Charlie Hanafin (three goals, three assists) and Daniel Hanafin (four goals, assist) paced the team in scoring, while Jennings added a hat trick and an assist himself in the contest. Jake Sloan finished 20-for-24 in the face-off circle.

However, the path to a championship will not get any easier. The Div. 3 field now includes Nauset and Scituate as newcomers along with Burlington. Not to mention, consistent programs such as Dover-Sherborn, Medfield and Newburyport will await the Red Devils come the postseason.

“We’re just waiting to play one of them,” Jennings said. “Just to see what we could do.

“I think we just play our game. Get ready at practice, and do what we do.”

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