HomeHillsborough BeaconHillsborough SportsHILLSBOROUGH: Boys’ lacrosse (4-4) begins to show playoff potential 

HILLSBOROUGH: Boys’ lacrosse (4-4) begins to show playoff potential 

By Justin Feil, Packet Media Group
Thomas Boland and the Hillsborough High School boys lacrosse team may have had a rough beginning, but things are looking up.
Boland has returned strong from an ankle injury that cost him most of the preseason and limited him to man-up situations in the first two games of the year, one of the countless injuries and illnesses endured early by the Raiders. The senior attack scored three goals and assisted on three others in a 10-9 comeback win over Randolph on Monday.
“I think it was huge finally getting a close win like that,” Boland said. “The last two games, losing by one to Ridge and two to Montgomery — two powerhouses — I think it was great for the program to get a close win and understand you have to be calm and come back.”
It’s been one uphill climb from the start of the year. Boland missed losses to Hunterdon Central and Watchung Hills, but has helped Hillsborough put together an impressive 4-2 record over the last six games heading into Wednesday’s scheduled matchup against third-ranked Moorestown.
Ridge edged HHS in overtime and fifth-ranked Montgomery stopped them, 10-8, but the Raiders rattled off wins over Somerville, East Brunswick, West Windsor-Plainsboro North and Randolph to improve to 4-4.
“We had an interesting preseason,” said Raiders head coach Mark Wilson. “We had our best attackman, Tom Boland, out with a high ankle sprain. Then our faceoff guy (Brendan Nork) got a concussion and missed the first game. Then the norovirus went through the team. We never knew who we’d have at practice.
“We had guys playing out of position the first couple games. Travis Casey, one of our better middies, was playing attack during that time period to get us through. I think it just made us a little tougher. Now we’re trying to scrap it out and get a big win.”
The Raiders believe that at full strength they’re capable of playing with anyone. Their recent stretch — even the narrow losses — helped show some of their potential.
“After the rough start to the beginning of the season, some of the guys’ heads were down,” Boland said. “Coach said not to worry about it and it’s not now, but when we come into May that matters. It’s playing with confidence and keeping our play crisp and not letting down.”
Against Randolph, the Raiders had a balanced attack. Nork also scored three goals, Tim Yost added two goals and two assists, Casey had two goals and Dillon Zimmerman had one assist.
“They were ranked ahead of us and putting a lot of points on the boards and we were hoping to limit them and give us a chance to win,” Wilson said. “The defense had good game and Tom Mahoney has been excellent as goalie.”
The defense limited Randolph except for a late goal. It’s an important step in the team’s development.
“The rest of our defense is inexperienced,” Wilson said. “That is a challenge. It’s not a deep position for us. Our better athletes right now are our attack players. Having a good goalie and good attack takes pressure off those guys. We want to get to a position where we play consistently game in and game out. That’s starting to build after we finally have people in positions they’re going to stay in the rest of the year.”
The offense was in good form when it needed to be. It helped Hillsborough outscore Randolph, 4-2, in the fourth quarter.
“I think we’re really starting to understand we need to help the defense and be smart about our play,” Boland said. “The only downside to having so many good players — we all can shoot — is knowing when to take the shot and when to move it. It’s probably one of the most dynamic offenses we’ve had in the last couple years at Hillsborough.”
The defense is anchored by Mahoney and defenseman Conor Genes. Mahoney made nine saves against Randolph. They are two of the eight seniors for the Raiders.
“It’s a good group of seniors,” Wilson said. “Every single one of them is a big component of what we’re doing. We have a good senior at every position.”
Solid leadership and their experience — three of them saw substantial time as freshmen — are giving the team confidence that this could be a breakthrough season. There is a brighter outlook as they head into the final six weeks.
“I think we could definitely host a playoff game this year,” Boland said. “It’s not so much we have more talent than we’ve had in the past. I think it’s the whole atmosphere, going hard all the time. The talent has always been there, it’s just a different way of looking at it that has helped us strive.”
Having Boland back on the field has helped at the offensive end and helped to put everyone back in their best position. And he feels more capable of helping the team with more chances to play. He only had special team opportunities in his first two games.
“When I was hurt, it was hard for me to get on the field and put goals in when we needed them,” Boland said. “It was good to keep everyone’s heads up and be a vocal leader when I could be. Now that I’m on the field, it’s easier to do the things we need and be more than a vocal captain on the sideline.”
Boland has been a contributor since he was a freshman, and his contributions have grown every season along with his role.
“As a freshman, I got to play a pretty good amount,” he said. “We pretty much played with four attackmen — three seniors and me. Back then, I was more like the guy trying to transfer the ball to the seniors. I knew they could shoot. It’s been great getting older and older and guys are trying to get the ball to you instead of cycling through you.”
Boland could be back to those days next year when he joins the Cortland State men’s lacrosse team. “I think it’ll be a good adjustment,” Boland said. “I don’t think it’ll be too hard. I think it’ll be like freshman year because you have to prove yourself because the coaches don’t know you. I just have to go hard, and I think there’s a good chance I’ll be playing.”
For now, however, his focus is on helping the Raiders win as many games as possible. Hillsborough is in good position now with healthy players led by a senior class that is determined to lift the program in its final year.
“We’re hoping we can definitely go pretty late into playoffs, counties and states,” Boland said. “We’ve stuck around with some of the top teams in the group. It wouldn’t shock me if we advanced far. Our goal is to play in TOC. It’s just a matter of how hard we want to work to get there.” 

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