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Senior captain midfielder Ian Mason and the Old Saybrook boys’ lacrosse team were primed for a big improvement over their previous season. Mason’s relentless work ethic and skills at the face-off circle made him a big part of the Rams’ plans. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain defenseman Matt Murphy would have been the Rams emotional leader and defensive general in 2020. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Senior Alem Tiden had potential to rack up the goals with his impressive accuracy and power from range. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
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The Old Saybrook boys’ lacrosse team had a slow season in 2019, and hoped that this year would prove to be a step in the right direction. The Rams turned in a 2-14 record last year, but the 2020 edition of the squad would hopefully change those fortunes. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of all spring sports before first-year Head Coach Jon Mason’s squad had a chance to get off the ground.
Coach Mason knew that last season didn’t live up to expectations, and a big reason was a lack of depth and experience in the upper classes for Old Saybrook. That wouldn’t have been the case in 2020.
“I think last year we had a small senior class, so a lot of burden was put on the underclassmen to step up,” Mason said. “I had each of these seniors this year on my youth teams with the Connecticut River Ticks, and I knew what they were capable of. I think that was part of me stepping into the head coaching position, and it was going to help the team.”
Mason believed that one of the biggest factors in favor of the Rams’ success was bound to be the leadership of the senior captains Matt Murphy and Ian Mason. Coach Mason thought the pair complemented each other well.
“They were really good captains because they were opposite of each other. Matt is a vocal leader on the field, very rah-rah, and outspoken. When he talked everyone listened,” said Mason. “Ian was a quiet guy who let the results speak for themselves. For the other guys, it was like, look at Ian out here working hard every day. Both sides are very important. I thought this was a good balance between a strong work ethic and an inspirational leader.”
The two also represented different parts of the field. Murphy was a dependable defensive stalwart for the Rams.
“Matt ran the defensive unit last season, controlling when to implement zones or revert back to man-to-man coverage,” said Coach Mason. “Matt’s experience in youth and the high school game has given him a very high lacrosse IQ. I relied on Matt, as the whole team did, to set the tone.”
Ian Mason took the bulk of the draws in the circle and patrolled the midfield for Old Saybrook.
“Ian was set to continue his dominance at face-off in addition to his responsibilities of beating his men on both sides of the field Ian’s true gift is speed and thoughtfulness,” said Coach Mason of his son Ian. “One of my favorite things is to watch him work out just how to beat his man in a face-off. You can see him working it out. It’s more like chess than lacrosse to him.”
After graduating just two players last season, this year’s team looked prime to shake up the Shoreline Conference with a number of talented seniors, including Alem Tiden, Jake Linder, and Ed Fernandez. Mason had hoped all five seniors would not just be great on the field, but also in imparting their knowledge to the underclassmen.
“We were on track with three or four players to earn All-Conference and All-State accolades. This was going to be the year for them to put it all together and achieve results greater than the sum of their parts,” said Mason. “We wanted to give the seniors the room to show off what they learned the past four years for the freshmen who came in. We needed to start off right with this new batch of freshmen for the good of the program’s future.”
Tiden looked prime for a huge year, after having some setbacks early in his career. The senior could definitely score from range according to Mason.
“Alem was coming back to his old form, after recovering from a shoulder injury his freshman year,” said Mason. “He has a potent outside shot, and really worked hard on his strength, shot speed, and accuracy.”
Coach Mason believed that Linder would bolster the Rams’ defense alongside fellow senior Murphy.
“Jake got the surprise nod to move to last season’s starting line up, and he proved that he can play within the limits of the rules while remaining poised,” Mason said. “Jake’s journey in this game has been tremendous, and I am so proud to see what he’ll do next.”
Additionally, Coach Mason had a potent force in Fernandez, and the senior had shown to be adaptable to whatever the team needed.
“Ed’s heart is his biggest asset. For as much as I love what he does on the field, it’s how he gets his teammates to play for him that impresses me,” Mason said. “Don’t get me wrong, Ed’s confidence and dogged ferociousness make him a threat on both sides of the ball, too.”
While the seniors would have been the anchors for Old Saybrook, there were younger players who would have played vital roles with the Rams, as well. For instance, sophomore goalie Andrew Souriyamouth looked ready for a big year in the cage.
“Andrew was brand new to the position freshman year. I saw his potential and thought we should get him in there early. We moved our senior keeper into midfield,” said Mason. “In my 13 years of coaching lacrosse, I haven’t seen someone learn a position so quickly. He’s always looking to get better, and he shows up asking what he can do different today.”
Next year, Mason figures that Jack Adams will maintain his steady ascent as player, but he had planned this year would have offered an opportunity to develop further with a talented senior group guiding Adams.
“Jack’s done a great job at attack for us since freshmen year. I hoped this year we would have got him a lot more experience in a pivotal role with the direction of the seniors,” Mason said. “He’s got a high lacrosse IQ. He’s a fan of the game, and he’s going to do great things.”
The Rams won’t be lacking in emotional support in the long term either thanks to sophomore Ryan Sliz.
“Ryan’s a fantastic young man. He plays with all heart and is super emotional on the field,” said Mason. “With that type of passion on the field, it’s hard for everyone not to get excited. He’s going to be a big part of the team next year.”
Even though Old Saybrook didn’t have a chance to see what the 2020 edition of the team could do. Coach Mason knows that there will be a number of solid players present for the future. A large crop of freshmen and sophomores were prepared to log meaningful minutes, and Coach Mason knows that was in large part to his commitment coaching youth lacrosse in the area.
“I was impressed with the turnout of the freshman class at the team’s weight training sessions. We increased our team by 10 to 15 players. We had some kids who had played for a long time,” said Mason. “It will make my job a bit harder next season, but having those guys together will be fantastic. I was with the Ticks for 12 years, and I started a kindergarten program while I was there. This is a new era of players, and they are still on the upswing in terms of head count.”
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