A Perfect Season

By Bob York

The only thing the Deerfield Academy boys lacrosse team lost this spring was its scorebook—and even that reappeared following a three-week hiatus. 

Its return to coach Chip Davis’s office on June 10, nearly a month after the season had ended, allowed the Big Green skipper to finally put some closure on a campaign that saw his club finish atop the New England rankings and fourth nationally, according to MaxPreps.com. The scorebook was a treasure trove of scores and statistics through the team’s first 14 games of the season and a good-luck charm as well, as its contents had scripted a 14-0 record.

The scorebook went missing on the bus ride home from Salisbury School on May 18, following an 11-7 win over the Crimson Knights that clinched the Big Green sole possession of the Western New England Division I Boys Lacrosse League crown. “One of the kids asked to look at it on the ride home,” explained Davis, “and that’s the last we saw of it until someone called from the bus company the other day to notify us that they’d found it.”

In the meantime, the players, not knowing if the dominating statistics they had rung up through those 14 games would ever be officially tallied, went out in their final appearance and made sure, stats or no stats, that all would know one thing for sure—they finished their season undefeated. And they did, knocking off Exeter, 6-4, to finish the season at 15-0.

It marked the third time in the past nine years—2002 and 2007 being the other two—that the Big Green has produced a perfect season, and the third time it has grabbed sole possession of this highly-competitive league’s pennant. It has also shared at least a part of the crown on five other occasions to place it atop the final league standings in eight of the past 10 seasons.

Last year was one of those few times that Deerfield failed to come out on top,  “and this sure wipes away the frustration we all felt after that,” said Jimmy Bitter ’11, after his three fourth-period goals turned a 4-3 Exeter lead into a 6-4 Deerfield win to ensure its perfect record. “Last year, we went 16-1,” explained Bitter, who earned both All-American and All-League honors this spring and who will play in the Under Armour High School All-American Game in July,  “but we finished second in the league after losing to Salisbury, who went undefeated. This all makes up for it, though. Winning the league title and then going undefeated … you can’t go out with any better feeling than that.”

Even in perfection, this proved to be another typical Big Green lacrosse team. One that simply overpowered opposing defenses, then stifled opponents’ offenses. In outscoring its opposition by a 212-86 margin this spring, Deerfield reached the 200 goals-for plateau for the second straight year and has averaged 202 per season since Bitter’s freshman season. Its defense, meanwhile, has given up an average of 85 goals a season over the same span and has not allowed an opponent to reach double figures in 78 consecutive games. And to translate these statistics onto the scoreboard, the Big Green has rung up a 61-3 record over the past four years and has a 170-14 showing since the turn of the century.

“This was a truly incredible season,” said Davis, who has tutored the Big Green to a 265-53 record since taking over the program in 1991. “I felt, with the talent we had that we’d do pretty well this year. But you just never know, this is a very competitive league and the difference between victory and defeat can often be very minimal.

“I think one big thing that helped us this year was that both the veterans and the new kids really jelled together quickly,” added Davis, whose club survived its season opener—and its closest game of the season—with an 8-7 victory over Brunswick. “I also think we had the best extra-man offense we’ve had since I’ve been here. I bet we scored on close to 40 percent of those situations and so if the opponents drew a penalty, we made them pay for it.”

When it came right down to it, however, Deerfield never really needed a man advantage to beat up on its opponents this spring. It more than held its own, due to the talent level of its players. In fact, when the Big Green had the ball and its first unit was playing, every Deerfield player—all 10 of them—on the field had already had their ticket punched to a Division I collegiate lacrosse team.

“Overall, this one of the best attack units I’ve ever had here at Deerfield,” said Davis of his starting unit of Ian Ardrey ’12, Sean Connors ’12, and Bitter. “In addition to their individual talent, they worked together very smoothly as a unit, and it put a great deal of pressure on opposing defenses.”

Combined, this trio registered 149 points in 15 games. Bitter, who is headed for the University of North Carolina and who shared this year’s Benjamin Haviland Boys Lacrosse Award with Mac Roy Jackson ’11, led the Big Green offense with 75 points on 52 goals and 23 assists. And for his efforts, he was named recipient of the Stewart Lindsay Award as the league’s Most Valuable Attackman. It is an award his older brother, Billy, won in 2007, following a post graduate year at Deerfield and prior to a standout career at UNC.

Both Ardrey, who closed out with 28 goals and 11 assists for 39 points and Connors, who posted 35 points on 15 goals and 20 assists, return for one more season before heading off to Harvard and Princeton respectively. Deerfield’s trio of starting midfielders got into the act as well, as they chipped in 93 points on the season. John Hogan ’11, who earned All-League honors and who will play at Cornell, was the No. 2 man on the scoring charts. This year’s Rhodes Cup recipient finished the season with 42 points on 25 goals and 17 assists. Brian Browne ’11, a participant in the East-West All-Star Game who is taking his talents to Fairfield, had 21 goals and five assists for 26 points, while Adam Hull ’11, one of three players headed for Dartmouth, produced 25 points on 18 goals and seven assists.

The defense, which Davis originally thought might be the team’s weakest link, “because we didn’t have much depth back there and a number of the kids we did have were pretty young and needed some time to mature.” But, as Davis would soon discover, he had nothing to worry about. “They grew up pretty quick,” said the skipper.

Goalie Luke Aaron ’12, who will serve as tri-captain next season along with Ardrey and Connors, proved to be one of the best around, allowing just seven goals or less in 12 of his 15 games. He showed why he will be playing at Duke in two years as he didn’t allow a single opponent to reach double figures. His primary bodyguards out front were defensemen Bob Osgood ’11, an All-League and East-West All-Star selection, and Mike Muller ’11, an All-League pick, who are both going to Dartmouth, and Will Swindell ’11, an East-West All-Star, who is bound for Brown.