Bulldogs hit road looking for another upset
MANCHESTER -- Jason Pergament accepts that his Burr and Burton Academy team is the No. 7 seed in this year's Division II boys lacrosse playoffs.
But he wants people to know that the Bulldogs aren't just a run-of-the-mill No. 7 team.
"I think we are an excellent No. 7 seed," Pergament said. "We have played well all season, we haven't been blown out all season."
In fact, of the seven losses BBA (10-7) has going into today's Division II semifinal game against No. 3 Burlington (15-3), three have been decided by one goal (including a 8-7 loss to Burlington on May 19) and two have been decided by two goals.
The losses could leave Pergament feeling snake-bitten about his team. But instead of focusing on the negative impacts of those losses, Pergament is instead focusing on how those losses have created a tougher side.
"I think it gives us a reality check," Pergament said. "I think having been in a lot of close games, we know what it's like to be on the winning side and the losing side of a close game. I keep reminding them of those moments. When we get into another close situation, I'm able to go back to that touchpoint and refer to that and remind them that we don't want to walk off the field with any regrets."
The Bulldogs have already shown that seeding means little to them as they topped No. 2 Stowe on Saturday 7-4. The win gives BBA some confidence heading into today's game, but Pergament is also quick to remind his team that situations they have been in before this season have put them where they are currently.
"I try to look at each game individually. If we had won some of those close games this season we would have had a higher seed going into the playoffs and we would have had more home games," Pergament said. "We've had a tough postseason in terms of the games we've played and we've only had one home game. We've had to win on the road."
Talking about the issues that go with a long trip to a game, Pergament said that Saturday's gameplan for arriving at Stowe will carry over to Burlington.
"At Stowe, we showed up two hours early," Pergament said. "I felt it worked. We got there super early, we had time to stretch our legs and get loose."
And with the Bulldogs relying on a big group of underclassmen, feeling loose going into the game is key if the Bulldogs want to acclimate quickly.
While the Bulldogs have seniors like Ben Alexopoulos, Andrew Sherras and Will Helmtag to provide leadership, Pergament has also looked to players like freshman Carter Vickers and sophomore Max Pagnucco to score goals for the team.
"Saturday's game against Stowe, only one upperclassman scored a goal," Pergament said. "The other guys really dominated the goal scoring in that game. It is a team-oriented approach [we have]."
The seniors, though, do have a large part to play in Pergament's system. The Bulldogs have been through several coaches over the last few years, but Pergament's motto to the seniors is that their legacy will carry on past this season.
"I keep saying to them to leave a legacy this year," Pergament said. "That's the thing, when they graduate BBA and walk down the aisle on Friday, what is the legacy you want to leave? I'm pushing the seniors to set the tone and the pace, and if they keep working hard it will provide opportunities for everyone else."
Pergament did not dive too deep into the gameplan for round two with the Seahorses. All he said was that he didn't want to see game one happen again.
"They beat us with 45 seconds left in the game," Pergament said. "What we know is that we don't want it to happen again. I think we are just a more mature team now. We are more ready now to step up and rise to the challenge."
The Seahorses are a team loaded with upperclassmen that have spent their careers in Division I. Burlington dropped down to D-II this year after posting sub-.500 records in the top flight.
Clark Stephenson, Jake Edwards and Sevin Gulfield are just three of the names to watch for the Seahorses offensively, while Jesse Bouchard will be Mike Sztorc's opposite in the cage today.
"I keep focusing on team defense," Pergament said. "We have to help each other and have each other's backs. It's about team-oriented coaching, it's not about just one player or one part of the team. It's about how the team comes together and bounces back from challenges."
Pergament's ultimate message comes down to the challenge he laid out for his team coming into the season. It takes three games to make the championship at Division II, and BBA only has two of them.
"I keep reminding them they have two out of three, and don't have the third yet," Pergament said. "[I remind them to] keep their eye on the prize and the opponent coming towards us."
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