By ADAM LAPIERRE
News staff writer
March 11, 2006
Last season the Hood River Valley High School varsity lacrosse team graduated 13 seniors, leaving massive holes in the roster where several starters and four-year players once stood.
Fortunately for the team, however, the local lacrosse movement is progressing fast, and well. With grade school and middle school programs taking hold in town over recent years, kids feeding into the high school team are not what they were only a few years ago: newcomers to the popular east-coast sport.
This year’s team is a stark contrast to last season’s senior-heavy lineup. But the young team does not discourage Coach Mac Jackson and staff, because most young players on the squad, including incoming freshman, already have solid stick and field skills, which many of last year’s graduated seniors did not have when they were freshman.
“Yes, we’re a young team this year,” said Jackson. “But the players are handling the ball well and they are learning very fast. The level of play for the young players is much better because they are starting earlier, which is what we are seeing with this year’s team. Their passing and stick skills are good, so we can also focus on learning to play as a team and learning more advanced strategies. Thanks, Coach LaMaita and Coach Evans.”
Another element contributing to the team’s early-season skill development is the pre-season training they did. Players who did not participate in winter sports went through about three weeks of conditioning to get in shape for the season. This means Jackson and the boys could jump right into skills and strategies, rather than spending precious early-season practices getting back into shape.
“It’s a contact sport,” Jackson said. “We have to go 100-percent, so the kids need to have good conditioning to start with. Hood River has always been an intense team, and we want to continue that reputation … And I’d like to see us have both edges of the sword this year: to be able to play all-out and aggressive, as well as settled, methodical and skilled.”
In lacrosse, an all-out, intensity team is more easily built than a disciplined and precise one. The best teams, of course, are those with well-rounded combinations of all of the above. And for the Eagles, the handful of returning players, including five seniors, will have to take charge and show by example the right combination of brains and brawn.
Returning defenders Tom Wanzek and Tony Guisto will anchor the defense and guard freshman goalie Dustyn Lyons.
“I’m expecting those guys to be aggressive and lead the defense,” Jackson said. “Fortunately Dustyn is one of our young guys who has been playing for a while so he’s coming to the team with some good fundamentals.”
Returning midfielders Ian Bohince, Paul Spaulding, Gideon Phelps and Peter Debbaut will have their work cut out for them in the most in-shape demanding position of the game.
“We’re looking for solid offense and defense from our middies,” said Jackson. “Those guys are a force out there, and they all seem to have well-rounded skills.”
And returning to the front line, be-fast-or-get-flattened position of attack are Alex Evans and Sheridan Lowe. Jackson expects the two to be scoring threats, as well as solid feeders to open middies pushing their offensive.
“It’s hard to know exactly how we’ll do until we get out there and play some games,” said Jackson. “We just want to go out as hard and as fast as we can, try new things, go for it, and see what happens … The most important thing for us early in the season is to truly become a team. On one hand, players can be very self-oriented; and on the other hand, they can be about doing things for the team. And that’s what we want; we want to be selfless and team oriented, on and off the field.”