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|Can lacrosse keep the streak going?|
|By Mike Halloran|
|Wednesday, March 28, 2012 09:00 AM|
(GOING FOR TWO IN A ROW: DHS lacrosse captains for the 2012 season include, front: Max Randall and Henry Buonaguiro, while Assistant Coach Tony Fisher and Head Coach Chris Sweet flank James Burke and Paul Hellar.)
The Duxbury HS athletic program is on another hot streak after winning the Division II girls’ hockey title earlier this month. Since the start of the 2010 academic year the Dragons have won State titles in five consecutive seasons. Could Chris Sweet’s lacrosse team make it six?
Having won eight State titles in the last 10 seasons, the Dragons are once again the favorites to repeat with a slew of college-recruited veterans returning for their final high school seasons. Having plowed through the Massachusetts portion of their schedule in 2011 by going 21-0, the Dragons did meet a challenge from some of their New York opponents, especially early in the season when they were stunned by Garden City (NY) in one of the worst defeats in the program’s history: one of their three losses to New York teams.
Revenge will be on the Dragons’ mind when GC comes to Duxbury on April 21, being just one of many top-ranked opponents on the Duxbury schedule.
This year’s squad is one of the deepest in Sweet’s reign as coach with returning captains Max Randall (Dartmouth), Paul Hellar (Fairfield), James Burke (Penn State), and Henry Buonagurio (Drexel) hoping to make it championship number nine.
After starting the season over the weekend with scrimmages against Falmouth (ME) and Governor’s Academy (Byfield, MA), the performance by their 33-man squad only reinforced the decisions made by Sweet and Assistant Coach Tony Fisher as to who made this year’s team.
“We have a pretty well-balanced team,” said Sweet, when asked what the strength of this year’s squad is. “If I had to decide, I’d say the tilt would go to the defense.”
That defense would give any opposing coach many sleepless nights trying to decide how to attack the Dragons.
Randall leads a pack of returning veteran defenders that includes Matt O’Keefe (John Hopkins), Jay McDermott (Syracuse), Riley Naton (Yale), Burke, and Jay Walsh, who will be joined this year by first-year varsity players: senior Ken Jacobsen, juniors George Ward and Jon Hurvitz, and sophomore Drew Dowling.
“Max continues to be our mainstay back there,” said Sweet. “There isn’t really any weak spot on our defense. Against the really good teams it will be our defense that carries us through.”
If opponents do manage to penetrate the defense, they’ll still need to get it past Buonagurio, who was in net for last year’s championship season. The senior took it easy this past football season resting a back problem in order to be ready for the rigors of a full lacrosse schedule. If that situation flairs up again, the Dragons feel secure with the services of two promising underclassmen in sophomore Nick Marrocco and Jack Corbett, the only freshman to make the team.
While it is easy to concentrate on a defense with plenty of recognizable All-Stars, Sweet was quick to point out that the Dragons have the capability to score a lot of goals.
“Don’t forget. We have three of our leading scorers back from last year in Paul Hellar, Sam Sweet and Will Siefert,” said Sweet. “We started off a little slow last year because we didn’t have the right mix of players. But we hopefully have solved that problem heading into this year.”
Joining his trio of scorers up front will be senior Seamus Connolly, junior C.J. Laconte and sophomore Brendan Burke, who was on the freshman squad last year and was very impressive in this year’s tryouts.
One position that certainly doesn’t lack for numbers is the midfield where seniors Chris Williams (Quinnipiac), Andrew Buron (Stony Brook), and Cam Mullins (St. Lawrence) will lead the pack of veterans that includes seniors Jon Gomer, Andrew Padula, and Adam Fitzgerald, along with juniors Henry Narlee and Tucker Hannon.
That seasoned group will be joined by junior Marshall McCarthy, who missed last year due to injury, senior Parker Leese, who was on the JV squad last year, junior Jack Sullivan , a transfer from Hingham and Thayer Academy, juniors Zack Snelling and Bobby O’Brien, and sophomore Wes Quinzani, a name synonymous with Duxbury lacrosse.
While it may be hard to decide what part of this year’s team will be the most impressive, there seems to be little doubt in Sweet’s mind as to what it is: depth.
“We are very deep in all the positions on our roster and that means we can absorb injuries and fill them without a huge drop off in play. Our practices are so competitive because our players are pushing and challenging each other for playing time. I’ve talked to coaches around the country who tell me they are now cutting letterman because the upcoming crop of players is far more developed and ready to step in and play.”
“It’s pretty well known we’re a top program in Massachusetts and recognized nationally just by where some of our players have played and succeeded like Max Quinzani – Duke, Chris Nixon – Georgetown, Scott Austin – Cornell, Hakeem Leckey – Syracuse, and Quinn Cully – Notre Dame, just to name a few.”
While Duxbury has proven to be a breeding ground for college lacrosse players at all levels, its history of titles and preparing student-athletes for what lies ahead does not come easy.
“If we wanted to go undefeated every year, we’d have a much easier schedule,” said Sweet. “We’re always up for a challenge. That’s why we bring in some of the best teams in New York and never back down from playing the best teams in Massachusetts. Even though we got beat handily (10-0) by Garden City last year we are heading down there in April. In two weeks we go up to Syracuse to play Jamesville DeWitt, who hasn’t lost a game in three years. I’m from upstate New York, so I’m partial to playing the best that region has to offer and I stay in touch with my contacts to keep those relationships going with Irondequoit and Niskayuna. We play games to get better, not to go undefeated.”
Not only does Sweet provide his team with top competition on a yearly basis, but he also provides them with excellent coaching with his assistant Tony Fisher, who has been alongside Sweet since 2002, and first-year goalkeeping coach Tillman Johnson, a new resident to Duxbury and a man largely responsible for tending net while leading the University of Virginia to the 2003 NCAA Division 1 lacrosse title.
The Dragons will get their regular season schedule underway on Thursday afternoon when they host Quincy HS at 4 p.m