From adversaries to allies: Panthers and Hawks work together on Hudson boys lacrosse team

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From adversaries to allies: Panthers and Hawks work together on Hudson boys lacrosse team
The Hudson boys lacrosse team has players from six towns. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

HUDSON – Hawks and Panthers are like oil and water in the Central Mass. sports landscape.

The two programs, hailing from Hudson and Marlborough, respectively, are often less than congenial toward one another on the gridiron, baseball field and almost any other athletic event. It’s simple: The orange-and-black and red-and-white don’t mix.

However recently, the Hudson boys lacrosse team is changing that narrative, putting aside longstanding athletic rivalries to compete, and win, together. Although the team includes five schools and six towns – Hudson, Marlborough, Clinton, Boylston, West Boylston and Berlin – teammates are united by one thing: a love of lacrosse.

Hawks, Panthers, Stags, Lions and Gaels – they’re all welcome here.

“They didn’t even know each other. The only thing that brings them together is the sport. We didn’t know them. They didn’t know us. They didn’t know each other. We had rival towns playing together. All these rivalries, and they have to put those aside and come together. We had to bring them together, but really the game brought them together,” Head Coach Marty Murphy told the Community Advocate after practice one Friday afternoon.

It’s not just the Marlborough-Hudson rivalry: Clinton and Hudson have bad blood and Tahanto and West Boylston are traditionally adversaries, for instance, but the rivalries haven’t stopped the team from coming together. If anything, being from different communities has given the athletes something to talk about after practice, the players said.

“I thought past the rivalries. This is a completely different sport. I feel like the tension is pretty much dissipated when you’re on the field together and you’re all interacting. You grow that bond and you set aside all those differences and you become one team. I think that really helped us out, especially coming from all those different communities,” said Clinton’s Ryan Bailey.

“We knew we wanted to win. We wanted to turn this into a winning program. But, our number one focus as coaches was getting all six towns on the same page – parents included,” Coach Mike Notaro Sr. said. “These kids love the game so much they’ve come together.”

But winning wasn’t always easy for the Hawks. The team, which features only one senior and one junior this year, was much younger than its competition. The team went 0-16 last year, and, entering April, held a 30-game losing streak that went back to 2022.

Still, the team remained positive.

On April 30, Hudson finally broke through, defeating Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School, 9-5, for the team’s first win in two years. The team fought back from a 3-0 deficit to get the victory. In another game against Bay Path on May 4, Hudson won again, 5-4, earning a last-second victory to improve to 2-6.

“The win was pretty monumental… Beating them was a big win for us. It felt like we finally got over that hump of being defeated. It was awesome; a big morale booster for the team as well. It showed us how our hard work paid off,” said Bailey.

From adversaries to allies: Panthers and Hawks work together on Hudson boys lacrosse team
The Hudson boys lacrosse team has players from six towns. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

And that Hawk pride is hard to shake. After practices, the team – even the Marlborough players – can be found supporting other Hudson programs, including the Hudson softball team. The softball team later reciprocated the gesture, cheering on the lacrosse team as the Hawks earned their first win.

“Even though they’re from six different towns, we fly under the Hudson flag. We’re all Hawks when you come here,” Murphy said. “They all just get along. They’re all very similar, but different. They all bonded together. They fool around together. They’re sort of on the same wavelength. It’s nice to see them getting along. Sometimes you don’t even see that when they’re from the same school.”

The six-town arrangement has downsides, some players admitted. With the team covering roughly 87 square miles, certain athletes drive long distances for practices at Hudson High School. Yet, the team has survived these challenges too. Bailey, one of the only athletes with his driver’s license, generously chauffeurs his teammates from practice, going well out of his way to make the commute easier for others.

“Everyone talks to everyone. Everyone is wicked friendly with each other. Everyone’s communicating, cooperating. It’s really helped us become who we are,” Bailey said.

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