Boys' Lacrosse Notebook: Vol. 2

By Alex Frazier

National Conference
If someone gives you a Corvette, you drive it as fast as you can.
Pennsbury coach Jamie Huber, a Falcon assistant the past two years, inherited the Chevy muscle car from Dean Curtis, and he is putting it through its paces.
The Falcons have blown out to a 10-0 start this year and are heading toward a collision with three-time defending National Conference champion Abington on Friday.
 “On behalf of the staff, I want to take partial credit for what the boys are doing right now,” said Huber. “Obviously the boys deserve the most credit, but Dean Curtis is a huge part of our success. Pennsbury is where it is today because of Dean Curtis.”
Pennsbury has scored an astonishing 132 goals and given up only 34 in its first 10 games.
But Huber knows that stats can be deceiving.
“We’re very satisfied where we are right now,” he said. “We have a lot of big games coming up, none bigger than Friday. We still feel like we have a lot to prove to people.”
Huber is disappointed that his non-league schedule wasn’t as demanding as he thought it would be.
The two exceptions were Wissahickon and Penncrest, the Falcons’ two closest wins of the year (6-3 and 10-7).
“That was a huge win,” said Huber of the Penncrest victory, “but it’s not enough to make a season on. I look at those two games as measuring sticks. We had ‘W’s’ in both those games, but by the same token we could play both of those teams again and just as easily lose.”
Huber knew he would have a strong attack returning.
“We have a very potent offense,” he said. “People know our strengths. Now it’s a question if they can stop us.”
“Us” is a key word there. The Falcons don’t have one or two guys they depend on for points. They have four or five that can get the job done. It makes it very difficult for opposing teams to shut them all down.
“I take pride in saying if you’re going to try and shut off one guy, that’s fine. We have four or five more that will pitch in,” said Huber.
On attack, senior captain Kenneth Warren had committed to Manhattan but is now looking at Delaware.
“He’s an amazing creator, an amazing dodger and an amazing shooter,” said Huber.
Junior Josh Caven transferred from Notre Dame (NJ).
“He’s been a big contributor, averaging two goals per game,” said Huber. “He’s been doing a good job for us being that third option.”
Rounding out the attack is sophomore Calvin Hopkins, who started last year as a freshman.
“He’s really come on this year,” said Huber. “He’s a real good creator.”
In the midfield is senior captain Shawn Caven.
“He is amazing at the ‘X’ and as far as controlling the ball and is real good behind,” said Huber.
Junior midfielder Ricky Jutkiewicz is already getting a lot of looks from college coaches.
“Every time he’s out there he draws a long stick,” said Huber. “Everybody knows who he is. He’s like 6-2, has real good speed, and goes left and right.”
What the coach didn’t know was how good the defense would be. When his senior goalkeeper came down with mono, sophomore Drew Sweetland stepped up.
“He hasn’t had to make incredible saves, but at the same time, he has made incredible saves,” said Huber. “He’s come along.”
An undefeated jayvee keeper last year, Sweetland recorded his first varsity shutout Tuesday with a big save at the end with his team down one man to preserve a 12-0 win over Council Rock South.
Continental Conference
When Todd Pettit took over at Souderton last year, the program was a shambles. Pettit didn’t even care about wins and losses. He spent the season “changing the culture” and “establishing a new way of doing things.”
After going 3-15 last year, the Indians are now 7-2, with both losses coming to defending conference champion Central Bucks East.
“There were a lot of growing pains, playing the young guys and trying to get experience,” said Pettit.
Several factors, according to Pettit, have influenced Souderton’s turnaround this year. At the end of last year, Pettit sat down with his returners, a lot of whom were sophomores, and told them that they were the key to the team’s future.
“You’re responsible for making this team good,” he told them. “You need to take control of this lacrosse program.”
They took him at his word.
“They came into the season approaching things more seriously than they have in years past,” said Pettit.
In the off-season they trained hard.
“It was concentrated into a couple of programs we had, but they got a lot out of them,” said Pettit. “We had good attendance and we had some players that committed themselves.
“Our first week back at tryouts I could tell the talent had increased so much. You could see the skill level was so much higher. That’s a tribute to our guys being committed.”
A second factor was the development of the attack. With a thin defense and a young midfield, it has been the attack that has propelled the team.
Instead of a one-dimensional offense as in the past, senior Lee Stiles and juniors J.P. Carroll and Brian Ziegler have created an offensive juggernaut.
“They really took over, taking leadership roles and taking it upon themselves to not really wait for things to happen but go after teams and go after plays in which they can get goals in transition and be more aggressive in creating,” said Pettit. “That never happened in years past.”
Stiles played midfield last year, but Pettit moved him up to attack this year because of his experience.
“That was one of the best moves we made,” said Pettit. “He’s the best passer on the team. He has a great sense of finding the open man. He’s great on man-ups behind the goal. He’s a four-year guy. He’s been through so much in this program (including three coaches). He brings that ‘I-want-to-win’ mentality to this team.”
Carroll leads the team in points.
“He’s been a really good leader for us,” said Pettit. “He’s been very dynamic with the ball and without the ball. He seems to always find a way to be in the right spot to score. He’s a smart player. He always knows where everyone is supposed to be.”
Ziegler has been coming through in the clutch for the Indians this year. A case in point was his game-winner against North Penn.
“He’s one of those kids who dedicated himself to conditioning and individual skills,” said Pettit. “He’s become our most dangerous shooter. He’s very aggressive on ground balls.”
And finally, the team is much better conditioned. Since Pettit has only 19 players on the varsity roster, all of them need to be in good shape.
“Last year we threw a lot of conditioning at them and they weren’t ready for it,” said Pettit. “This year they realized they had to be ready to go out for an entire game and not come out too much. A lot of guys dedicated themselves to getting into the proper physical conditioning. That really helped us. By the fourth quarter we still have tons of energy left.”
Souderton’s youth program is starting to pay dividends at the varsity level. A good example of that is freshman midfielder Ridge Schultz. He is one of four freshmen that are seeing plenty of varsity minutes.
Schultz is the third leading goal scorer on the team and assumes the faceoff duties.
“He is one of our most reliable midfielders offensively and defensively,” said Pettit. “He’s given us a huge spark at that position. He’s a product of our youth program. We’re excited to get more like him in the next couple of years.”
Conference notes:  Harrison Holak was a lowly jayvee player to start the 2010 lacrosse season. But the Central Bucks East sophomore goalie catapulted into the spotlight four games into the season when coach Bruce Garcia elevated him above three other goalies on the varsity roster to start the Pennridge game, which the Patriots won handily 14-3.
His second start wasn’t quite as easy, however.
East faced its league archrival Hatboro-Horsham in a game that held title implications down the road.
According to East stats, he made 17 saves to preserve an 8-5 victory.
The two biggest saves came late in the fourth quarter with East clinging to a 7-5 lead. Holak deflected one Eddie Combs shot from the right side and then another from point-blank range a few seconds later.
“He was the right goalie to go to,” said Garcia. “I saw him in the winter and fall leagues. He had certain qualities. I had two seniors and one junior goalie ahead of him, so he had to clearly beat all three of them. They all got a game to play in. It was one of the rare decisions I made that turned out to be a good one.”
American Conference
Last year it was start fast and peter out.
Wissahickon coach Anthony Gabriele hopes that this year’s 0-3 start will prove the opposite.
“They’re workers,” said Gabriele. “They had a tough start. Sometimes it’s not always where you start, but where you finish. A lot of them took it to heart.”
And so far it seems that way, as the Trojans have won six straight league games, including a dramatic five-overtime, 7-6 win over archrival Upper Dublin, a team Wissahickon hadn’t beaten in at least six years.
The Trojans led by as much as 5-1 at the beginning of the third quarter and by 6-3 with eight minutes left. But the Cardinals suddenly got a second wind and gained momentum with three straight scores.
“The atmosphere was unbelievable,” said Gabriele. “There were no bleachers so the crowd was right up on the fence, and the fence is only three feet from the sidelines. It was packed. It was a very intense, energetic atmosphere.”
It wasn’t until the fifth overtime that Garret Rosiek made the difference in that game as the Aurora University-bound senior hit the net for the game winner.
“This group of seniors has never beaten Upper Dublin,” said Gabriele. “Two years ago they were beating us 19-2.”
Wissahickon lost just three seniors to graduation last year, so Gabriele knew he would have a strong and experienced nucleus returning. To that end, he set up a schedule to test his squad early. The Trojans started with National Conference runner-up Pennsbury (now 10-0) and lost that 6-3. Next up was a winnable game against Downingtown West, which ended up a 6-5 loss, and finally the Trojans fell to cross-town rival Germantown Academy, 11-5.
The defense has been a strength this year.
Senior goalie Sean Smith was a huge factor in the Upper Dublin game.
“He’s been solid,” said Gabriele. “He stood on his head the last couple of overtimes (against Upper Dublin).”
Playing in front of Smith are three-year returners junior Beau Gomez, who has already committed to the Naval Academy, and junior Tom Bracaglia.
The Trojans get their leadership from senior midfield captains Brian Frankenfield (headed to Dickinson) and Jeff Gebert (Susquehanna).
Gabriele also had a couple of surprises.
Sophomore attackman Brian Dick worked hard over the summer and has stepped up. And freshman Sean Delaney has been a big boost at long stick middie.
Also senior attackman Nick Lucchesi is back after blowing out his knee last year and missing his whole junior season.
“He was a big contributor as a sophomore,” said Gabriele. “He’s doing a great job offensively.”
Gabriele credits the resurgence of the offense to coach Haldy Gifford.
“It was huge from an offensive perspective,” said Gabriele.
Saturday the Trojans will be participating in their annual community service day. This year they will be clearing and chipping a walking trail at Wentz Road Park.
Conference notes: With only a small youth feeder program, Norristown coach Jeff Calhoun is always battling not just low numbers but also lack of experience.
“Our youth program is still small,” he said. “We’re barely fielding two teams in the upper two age groups right now, and my jayvee is 90 percent first-year players. It’s hard to teach them an offense and teach them to play lacrosse.”
When the wins come, there is cause for celebration as was the case Monday, when the Eagles shut out Upper Moreland 12-0.
“The kids were excited about it,” said Calhoun.
Shane Franzone led the attack with nine goals and an assist. Dan Stauffenberg had 10 assists (17 assists and three goals for the year), while Jake Naseef added a pair of goals and Sean Calhoun chipped in one goal and one assist.
Unfortunately, the celebration was short-lived as Cheltenham popped the balloon the next day with a 9-8 overtime win. The Eagles had to play without starting sophomore goalie Mike Malloy, who aggravated a tender groin pull against Upper Moreland.
“He’s been battling the injury for awhile,” said Calhoun. “I can’t blame that. We only scored eight goals.”
It was the second overtime loss this year; the other came against Harry S Truman.
“We’re scoring more, but we’re just giving up more on defense,” said Calhoun.
On Wednesday, the Eagles travelled to Kennedy-Kenrick for the last time and picked up an 11-7 win. Shane Franzone led the attack with four goals and one assist. Dan Staufenberg had one goal and six assists. Jake Naseef had the hat trick while Jesse Prante had two goals and Sean Calhoun, one goal and one assist.
The Eagles are averaging six goals a game, up from five last year.
Norristown finishes off a busy week Friday with a re-match against Upper Moreland.
 
Sol Top Five
1.   Abington
2.   Pennsbury
3.   Central Bucks East
4.   Hatboro-Horsham
5.   Wissahickon
Eastern Pennsylvania Lacrosse Association Top 15
(April 19)
1.   Haverford, 10-2
2.   Conestoga, 8-1
3.   LaSalle, 7-1
4.   Springfield Delco, 7-1
5.   Episcopal, 8-2
6.   St. Joseph’s Prep, 4-4
7.   Garnet Valley, 6-2
8.   Pennsbury, 9-0
9.   Emmaus, 4-4
10.               Malvern, 5-4
11.               Germantown Academy, 6-1
12.               Abington, 6-2
13.               Spring-Ford, 9-0
14.               Ridley, 8-1
15.               Radnor, 6-2
Others receiving votes: Avon Grove, Central Bucks East, Downingtown East, Downingtown West, Hatboro-Horsham, Penn Charter, Penncrest, Shipley