DANVERS — For most of the spring, St. John’s Prep lacrosse standout Jake Vana had a litany of nagging injuries, struggling to get back to the level he is accustomed to playing at.
Unfortunately for opposing Div. 1 schools, it appears the junior is almost fully back. Vana sniped four goals and added an assist Saturday as St. John’s Prep closed its impressive regular season with a crucial 12-9 win over Hingham.
“It worked out perfectly,” said Vana. “Didn’t come back as healthy as I wanted to. I was in a lot of pain and I was trying to fight through it. But the last couple of days was probably the first time I’ve felt like myself again. This is the first game I’ve played an entire game without any pain. It seems to be going away just at the right time, knock on wood.”
Entering Saturday’s tilt, St. John’s Prep (17-1) was listed as the top team overall in the MIAA’s latest Div. 1 power rankings, while Hingham (17-2) was slotted fifth, a perfect test for both programs ahead of the state tournament. Early on, the game played out like a championship bout with the schools trading goals. Hingham’s Connor Lasch sniped a tally with 4:51 to play in the second quarter, knotting things at 4-4.
But in the waning moments of the second quarter, Vana tallied his second goal to make it 5-4 with 15 ticks remaining. The Eagles proceeded to win the ensuing face-off, then called a timeout. As the final seconds bled off the clock, Jimmy Ayers reared back and uncorked a missile, which whistled right into the corner of the Hingham cage at the horn. In a flash, St. John’s Prep had seized a 6-4 lead at the break, a sequence which proved vital.
“I think the coaches were talking about it,” Vana said. “We weren’t playing our best offense, especially in the first or second quarter. But then, the momentum we got, that was kind of a heartbreaker for them because they were in it. They probably had the chance to take the lead a couple of times. Those two goals honestly gave us the momentum boost, and the confidence we needed going into the second half.”
Hingham’s Charlie Packard executed a magnificent wraparound goal to slice the deficit to 9-8 early in the final frame, but that was as close as the Harbormen could get.
With 5:34 to play, Vana forced a turnover, deked his way to the net and buried his fourth goal, icing the victory for the Eagles.
In addition to Vana, St. John’s Prep was led by Ayers (two goals, assist) and Rowan Mondello (two goals).
Packard carried Hingham with four goals on the day.
“(John Todd’s) an amazing coach,” said St. John’s Prep coach John Pynchon. “It was just a really good, late season high school lacrosse game in the state, and there’s a good chance we see them in a couple of weeks. Got to get back to work, stuff we’ve got to work on.”