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  • Staff photo by WILLIAM WROBEL

    Nashua South boys lacrosse head coach Bill Monsen has words with his players during a pause in play during a game against Londonderry High School Thursday, April 19, 2012.
  • Staff photo by WILLIAM WROBEL

    Nashua High School South boys lacrosse head coach Bill Monsen Calms his players down during a game against Londonderry High School Thursday, April 19, 2012.
  • Staff photo by WILLIAM WROBEL

    Nashua South junior Patrick Goff breaks down the field in a game against Londonderry High School at Stellos Stadium in Nashua Thursday, April 19, 2012.
  • Staff photo by WILLIAM WROBEL

    Nashua South junior Patrick Goff fights to maintain possesion of the ball in a game against Londonderry High School at Stellos Stadium in Nashua Thursday, April 19, 2012.
  • Staff photo by WILLIAM WROBEL

    Lewis Carroll of Londonderry High School scores late in the game against Nashua South in boys varsity lacrosse at Stellos Stadium in Nashua Thursday, April 19, 2012.
  • Staff photo by WILLIAM WROBEL

    Londonderry High School varsity lacrosse player Steve Devereaux fires off a shot against Nashua North during the second half of gameplay at Stellos Stadium Thursday, April 19, 2012.
Saturday, April 21, 2012

Monson on mission to make South lacrosse powerful

It was just one game, but it was the perfect example of how close the Nashua High School South boys lacrosse team is to where they want to be and how far they still have to go.

Londonderry was in town Thursday, fresh off its upset victory over Pinkerton Academy of Derry a few days earlier. The Lancers looked confident jumping out to a 3-0 lead.

But South fought back to tie the game before fading in the second half of a 10-4 loss.

There are no excuses in Bill Monson’s coaching manual. It was probably the first thing he eradicated when he took over as the Nashua South head lacrosse coach last spring, a few weeks shy of his 24th birthday.

A losing attitude had seeped into the program over the years. The feeling that South simply didn’t have the numbers or enough elite athletes to compete with programs like perennial powers Bishop Guertin and Pinkerton Academy, or for that matter established programs like Exeter and Hanover.

For Monson – who spent two years as the junior varsity coach before taking over the varsity – the answers to South’s problems were clear enough.

He needed to get more kids out and he needed more of them to commit to an off-season program. As head coach, he needed to reach out to the youth programs and figure out what was working and what wasn’t.

He was just 23 when he was hired as head coach last spring and Monson is committed, long-term, to building a solid, self-sustaining lacrosse program at Nashua South. He knows it will take time, but he also knows he has seniors who can’t wait.

Senior Matt Lilley, who had played for Monson on junior varsity, saw the attitude shift that resulted in the team qualifying for the tournament last year, partly on the strength of a triple-overtime win against Exeter.

“We no longer just say they’re a better team than us,” Lilley said. “If we lose, we say we’ll get them next time.

“Against Pinkerton this year the score (15-5) wasn’t what we’d like, but we played them close for the majority of the game.”

His coaching peers have noticed the change. At the conclusion of last season, Monson and fellow rookie coach Keith Bertrand of Nashua High School North, were named co-Coaches of the Year in Division I. Bertrand’s North team is off to a 2-1 start this spring, losing 8-7 in it’s only divisional game to Exeter.

South’s early season losses to Pinkerton and Londonderry have pointed out an obvious problem. The Panthers aren’t nearly as deep as some of the school’s they compete against and depth has been a factor in the second half.

“Our weaknesses get exposed when we’re tired,” Monson said. “The first half we’re fresh, but you can only go for so long.”

The solution to the depth problem is pretty simple, but will take time.

“We need numbers and we need more athletes, really,” Monson said. “It’s just a matter of getting kids to try the sport. I wish everyone would because once you try it you’ll love it.

“Steven Choate is a perfect example. He’s been a football running back for me for a few years and he came to me and asked to play lacrosse, I wasn’t all over him about it. He’s a junior and he’s already starting because he’s so gifted athletically.”

Monson knows what it takes because he isn’t that far removed from when the Panthers were very competitive. Monson played for South until the split, when a simple matter of geography moved him to North for his senior year in football and lacrosse.

But the South loyalty was tough to shake. He returned to help out with the South football coaching staff while still a student at Plymouth State University and his responsibilities in football have grown each year.

But lacrosse, the sport he started to learn when a grade school friend lent him his brother’s equipment, is a passion he’s determined to pass on to others.

“We’re experience on defense but we’re very young on offense,” Monson said. “But they don’t give out any trophies in April and I think we’re going to be very dangerous in June.”

Monson has the patience it will take to watch his program grow, with a promising freshmen class and more talent a year or two away.

But he was part of a football program that was challenging for a title a few years after the split and would prefer to measure progress in games rather than years.