Wrecker laxmen shoot for postseason success
Building on last year's success and taking it a step further is the goal for the Staples boys lacrosse team.
Last year, Staples finished the regular season at 16-0 but was upset by St. Joseph in the first round of the FCIAC tournament and lost 9-8 to Fairfield Prep in Class L semifinals to cap the season at 18-2.
"We now have a new challenge, which is to keep things going," said Wreckers Coach Paul McNulty. "It's this group's turn to keep tradition going of playing well."
Staples lost nine seniors to graduation from last year's team, six who are playing in college. Defenseman Jack Ambrose is contributing at Yale University and is the team's biggest loss. The Wreckers also miss goalie Austin Waiter and defenseman Brandon Waiter, both playing at Merrimack College, attackmen Nate Greenberg and Jeff Kelly who are playing at Union College, and midfielder Kyle Mendelson, who is a Manhattan College Jasper.
"Obviously, it's a different team, we're never the same team twice," said Wreckers senior tri-captain Kip Orban. "We're excited and amped up to start the season and we're ready to play. Obviously, it would be great to repeat what we did last year but go further in the tournaments. We have to play well together and get better every game and if we do that, we'll win when it counts."
Orban was a First Team All-FCIAC selection, has been seen as a blue chip player since he began high school and will play for Princeton University next year. He can score and play defense and will anchor the midfield.
Complementing Orban in the midfield is senior returning starter Nick Maki. Juniors Jake Frimet and Kyle Murray also move into the starting lineup and sophomores Joey Zelkowitz and Sam Cadan will also get a lot of playing time.
The midfielders strive to work well with the attack and senior tri-captain Charlie Ross leads that unit. Ross was a reliable goal-scorer last year and will join Greenberg and Kelly at Union next year. Juniors Peter Paul and Billy Lahiff move into the starting lineup at attack and senior Ryan Hartmann will also see playing time at attack.
Maintaining a strong defense will be the Wreckers' biggest challenge. Senior tri-captain Matt Yeager will be playing for Colgate University next year. Classmate Greg Lewis saw a lot of playing time last year and will start this year. Also expected to play are seniors Kosta Papadopoulos and Trevor Hill, junior Tom Jenkins and sophomores Quinn Mendelson, Lance Lonergan, Greg Strauss and Jared Levi.
"We're going to have a great season," Ross said. "We lost a lot of senior talent and we're rebuilding. Our offense is clicking. Our defense is younger but Matt Yeager is working them hard. We have athleticism and play the game like Coach McNulty wants us too."
Senior J.B. Breig is the last line of defense and replaces Austin Waiter as the starting goalie and junior Sam Reiner is his backup.
"The defense has got to get better and better as the season progresses," McNulty said. "You also have to have a good goalie. J.B. has played well in the preseason and I'm confident he'll do well this year. We have a solid attack."
Yeager said, "I'm really excited, I feel we have a lot of good players. While we lost a lot of talent from last year, including four defensive starters, we gained a lot of depth. Coach McNulty keeps us in the right direction and as long as he's our coach, we'll do well."
Also figuring in the mix are juniors Sean Christie and Adam Levinson, sophomores Alec Yass, James Hines, Kevin Kearney and Colin Bannon and freshmen Ben Bjornson, Patrick Lesch, Will Johnson, Liam Flaherty and Jake Korus.
"In order to make up for the lost guys, we need the younger guys to step up," Orban said. "It won't be an issue because the younger guys are stepping up and the more experienced varsity players are helping them out across the board and are ready to take the lead."
Staples is optimistic about the season.
"It's a special year for me," Yeager said. "I'm a senior and it's my last chance to get it done. Reaching our goal comes from practice day in and day out. Other than practicing with the same mentality we play with, we have to communicate in games and listen to our coaches. If we don't do it, we can break down very easily."
Ross said, "We hope to come home with two rings on our fingers. We'll get it by working hard every day in practice and bringing a lot of intensity every day."