GUILDERLAND The Guilderland boys lacrosse team is facing hardships already, and the start of the regular season is still three days away.
First, the Dutchmen graduated most of their starting lineup from a 2013 squad that reached the Section II Class A semifinals. Then they lost five players to season-ending injuries, leaving them with 21 active players on their roster – only three of whom saw significant playing time last year.
“We’re very, very young. We’ve got 10 kids who are freshman or sophomores out of 21 players,” said Guilderland coach Sean McConaghy. “It’s the youngest and the smallest team I’ve ever fielded.”
The key injuries are to senior midfielder Marcus Knodler, who has been Guilderland’s primary face-off man the past two years, and junior attacker Alec Cardinal. Without Knodler, McConaghy said he will use a variety of players to handle face-offs.
Minus Cardinal, McConaghy said Guilderland will rely more heavily on seniors Jake Smith (attack) and Brad Johnston (midfield) to carry the offense.
“Both had really awesome football seasons, and now they’re ready for lacrosse season,” said McConaghy. “They’re also doing a great job of getting the other guys ready.”
Defensively, McConaghy is turning to Sam DiPace to start in goal this season. DiPace helped Guilderland’s junior varsity team excel last season, and McConaghy said the sophomore is making his presence felt among his teammates this year.
“He’s already got the respect of the returning juniors and seniors, so that’s a good start,” said McConaghy.
DiPace will also benefit from working with new goaltender coach Dan McKeown, who helped Syracuse-area power West Genesee win two state championships several years ago.
“We’re lucky to have a person like that on our staff this year,” McConaghy said of McKeown.
Still, McConaghy said he anticipates a long learning curve for his team as the freshmen and sophomores are introduced to varsity-level lacrosse.