Lincoln-Sudbury lax alums Connor McCarthy, Eric Holden and Chandler Katz set to play in NCAA Final Four
Tommy Cassell, MetroWest Daily News
May 28, 2021, 03:22 PM ET
Playing in the NCAA Final Four is what most young lacrosse players dream of.
“This is the pinnacle of the sport,” University of North Carolina men’s lacrosse player Connor McCarthy said.
On Saturday, three former Lincoln-Sudbury boys lacrosse players in Eric Holden, Chandler Katz and McCarthy will suit up in the semifinals of the 2021 Men’s Lacrosse Championships at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut.
McCarthy and the top-ranked Tar Heels (13-2) will play No. 4 University of Virginia (12-4) at 12 p.m. After the conclusion of that game, Katz and the second-seeded Blue Devils (14-2) of Duke University will take on Holden and No. 3 Maryland (14-0). Both contests will be televised on ESPN2.
The winner of those two games will then meet on Monday in East Hartford, with a shot to win a National Championship.
“Playing in the Final Four is something that I’ve been dreaming about since I was a young kid,” Holden said.
To get to the Final Four, each of the teams of the three L-S lax alums won thrilling one-goal games in overtime. Katz and Duke beat Loyola Maryland, 10-9, while Holden and the Terrapins beat Notre Dame, 14-13. Perhaps the most exciting victory, however, was McCarthy and the Tar Heels’ 12-11 OT win over Rutgers.
After UNC attackman Chris Gray dislodged the ball from Rutgers goalie Connor Kirst with less than two minutes to go into the extra period, Gray found teammate Will Perry who then shoveled a pass to McCarthy.
“I think I blacked out at the time,” McCarthy said.
The UNC grad student cradled the ball to his right, took a few steps forward and when nobody from Rutgers stepped up to stop him, McCarthy rifled a right-handed shot into the back of the net to secure his team a spot in the Final Four.
“I looked kind of awkward doing it but I kept improving my angle and got in position to shoot,” McCarthy said. “Luckily, I got it past him and over his left shoulder and once I saw it go in it was a sigh of relief.
“I’ve definitely had nothing like that in my career, it was awesome.”
Watching McCarthy incite a UNC pig pile on national television was Holden from his hotel room in South Bend, Indiana. Maryland had just finished its practice on the Notre Dame campus last Saturday and Holden hoped to catch a glimpse of his former teammate and classmate's game.
“I was nervous for him,” Holden said. “Then obviously was really pumped when he got that game-winner. It was really cool and I’m glad I got to watch it live on TV.”
Over the last 15 years, Holden and McCarthy have shared similar lacrosse journeys. The two grew up playing together in the Lincoln-Sudbury Youth Lacrosse program before the former Warriors won two state championships with the Lincoln-Sudbury boys lacrosse team.
Then, McCarthy moved on to play college lacrosse at Princeton University while Holden played at Hobart College. The coronavirus pandemic, however, canceled their respective senior seasons in 2020, which left the two lax standouts with an option to play one more year or hang up their cleats.
“It’s been pretty cool to have someone along with me for this journey,” McCarthy said. “I had one of my best friends from home to go through this with.”
Twice this season, McCarthy and the Tar Heels squared off against Katz and the Blue Devils. On April 1, Duke beat UNC, 12-11, in overtime before the Tar Heels returned the favor with a 15-12 win on May 2. Now, Katz will play against another former L-S teammate on Saturday.
“It will be nice to be back on the field with Eric again,” said Katz, a junior at Duke University.
Katz remembers watching the NCAA Final Four on his TV during Memorial Day weekend when he was a kid. “It was my favorite time of year,” he said.
Katz’ favorite team growing up was Duke. So to play for his beloved childhood team in the Final Four this weekend is a wish that became a reality.
“To have that dream actually come true and be on the sideline for the Final Four,” Katz said, “it’s going to be a surreal moment.”
At least one L-S alum is guaranteed to play in the National Championship game on Monday. And if McCarthy and the Tar Heels take care of business on Saturday, then two former Warriors will compete for some coveted hardware.
“Somebody would have some nice bragging rights after the game if everything goes to plan,” McCarthy said.
“If that were to happen, that would be a really cool experience to have two L-S alums square off in the National Championship,” Katz said. “I don’t think you could write that story any other way.”
Tommy Cassell is a senior multimedia journalist for the Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tommycassell44.