Raider lacrosse seniors finally get their playoff wish

Photo courtsy of Rivier University Riiver's Chris Pennie looks for some room to maneuver during a recent game. Pennie and the Raiders will play their first home tourney game ever tonight at Raider Field vs. Anna Maria in the GNAC quarterfinals.

NASHUA – Rivier University athletic director Joanne Merrill’s theme has always been “You win with seniors.”

The Raiders’ men’s lacrosse team is proving her point. Head coach Jay Delanoy’s team has the most seniors it’s ever had – 10 – and for the first time ever the 11-3 Raiders will host a postseason game as they host fifth seeded Anna Maria in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference quarterfinals.

It’s long been a goal in the Delanoy Era to play a playoff game at Raider Field, and it’s finally happening.

“We talked about it early in the year,” said Delanoy, in his eighth season running the Raider program. “We talked about earning a home game for the first time. For our 10 seniors, this was their last chance, if they wanted it, they had to go after it. They’ve been talking about it all year.”

The Raiders finished 5-3 in conference play to earn the No. 4 spot in the GNAC standings, the highest they’ve ever finished. If they win their quarterfinal, they will tie the program mark for wins with 12.

And why shouldn’t this team accomplish all that? They are led by the leading scorer in program history, senior attackman Colby Larsen, the 6-2 talent from Windham who is second on the team in goals this year with 39 behind Warwick, R.I.sophomore Dylan McSparren, who has 42. Larsen has 150 career goals. “He just loves to play,” Delanoy said.

But what has been the trademark of this team, after the Raiders went a combined 14-19 the previous two seasons?

“We play a great brand of team defense,” Delanoy said, as his defenders are led by Bishop Guertin alum Ken Whittier, a senior from Amherst. “No one guy is going to have to do it all by himself.”

Plus, these Raiders move the ball around well, with a good goal to assist ratio.

“It’s pretty high,” he said. “The ball moves around and we know when there’s a good shot to be taken.”

Junior Travis Gustikoff helps that happen from midfield, while Chris Pennie (senior) and McSparren are tied for the team lead in assists with 22. And there a host of others who make this team go, including senior goaltender Matt Cloutman, who has a 59.2 save percentage and 9.42 goals against.

“He’s done a good job this year of coordinating the defense in front of him,” Delanoy said.

That includes Whittier, who is as smart in the classroom as he is on the field.

This team lost a couple of All-Conference players from a year ago due to injuries, so it’s accomplishment is no small feat. But anything can happen – the Raiders beat Anna Maria here only 11-9 back on April 2, thanks to a five-goal second period. Ironically it was in that period that Larsen became the program’s leading scorer with his 131st career goal, surpassing Liam Ryan, who graduated last year. In that game senior Eric Guinasso (Pelham) led Riv with five goals. He has 34 on the year.

History is on the Raiders’ side as they’ve won seven of nine meetings overall with the AmCats (3-5 GNAC). If Riv wins, it would move on to the semis for the first time ever, likely against No. 1 Lasell on Tuesday in Newton, Mass. The finals will be Saturday, May 4, also at the home of the highest remaining seed. But first, a playoff game at home.

“We’ve got a group of 10 seniors that have wanted this more than anything,” Delanoy said.

And now they’ve got it.

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Here’s a look at what some other local athletes have been doing recently at their respective schools:

Nashua junior Alanna Murphy continues to shine for the Southern New Hampshire University women’s track team. She recently earned Northeast-10 All-Conference academic honors based on her indoor season, during which she had six individual wins (including four hurdles victories in eight meets). She set a personal record in the 60 meter hurdles at NE-10 Championshp, finishing fourth, and also matchd a personal best in the triple jump with a win at the Plymouth State Classic. And, in this current outdoor season, she recently set a school record with a time of 1:06.94 in the 400 meter hurdles in the Larry Ellis Invitational Meet in Princeton, N.J. She is a sports management major with an incredible 3.97 grade point average…

Amherst’s Mackenzie Larivee of the University of New Hampshire women’s lacrosse team was named earlier this week as America East Offensive Player of the Week. Larivee recorded a season-high seven points by matching her season bests in both goals (five) and assists (two). The senior attacker scored five goals on six shots. The five goals and seven points are tied for the highest totals by a Wildcat this season…

Simmons University softball sophomore Amherst’s Hailey Yabroudy, a pitcher-first baseman, is currently hitting .273 and is is 6-8, 4.22 in the circle…

Nashua freshman Crismeily Borg recently helped the UNH women’s track team record a first place finish in the 4×100 relay in the Jay Carisella Invitational in Dedham, Mass…..

Nashua’s Brendan Martin had two goals and three assists in a recent St. Joseph’s of Maine win over Albertus Magnus. Another Nashuan, Shane Puelo, had four goals for the Monks…

Merrimack’s Brian Genet recently finished fifth for the University of New Hampshire in the Catamount Challenge Men’s Decathlon earlier this month. Genet, a freshman, totaled 5,208 points in his first men’s decathlon, and was tied for first in the pole vault at 10-10…

Merrimack’s Matt Brewster continues to score goals for Franklin Pierce men’s lacrosse. His two goals earlier this week in a tough 8-6 loss to No. 2 in the nation Adelphi gives him 13 on the year in 13 games to go with seven assists…

Nashua’s Tommy Ethier, the former Bishop Guertin golf standout, continues to shine at Bentley University. Ethier was the runner-up with a 54-hole score of 216 to help the Falcons win the Crofton (Md.) Invitational. He finished with a three-under 69, matching the best third-round score. He opened with a 74 and followed with a two-run 70 during Monday’s second round. Ethier, for the second straight round, had five birdies, including three on the four par-fives. He was just named to the NE-10 Weekly Honor Roll…

University of New Hampshire receiver Nick Lorden, the 6-4, 228-pound former Bishop Guertin standout, has been slowed by injury during the Wildcats’ spring practice season. He has 14 career catches for 155 yards and six TDs.