Coming off almost unquestionably the biggest upset in Rhode Island high school lacrosse history, Bishop Hendricken has its sights set on a similar path to the top this season.
During last year’s 5-5 campaign, the Hawks relied on their defense to help the team stay afloat while their offense developed as the season progressed. By the time the playoffs came around, Hendricken’s offense was up to par, and the Hawks were able to shock one-loss La Salle 6-4 to win the program’s fifth state championship.
“We were trying to catch up offensively last year, then we caught up and we peaked at the right time for the playoffs,” Hendricken head coach Kevin Murray said. “That wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened. The way that the league’s set up, you don’t have to win all your games to win the state championship. You’ve just got to be hot at the right time.”
Now, the roles have been reversed, as Hendricken graduated a number of key defensive pieces and its goaltender, while returning a host of contributors at midfield and attack.
The expectation, then, is for the offense to lead the way this time around, while the defense finds its footing.
And by the time the playoffs come around, the Hawks plan on being well-balanced once again.
“Defensively, we’ll be fine, I just think we’ve got to work out some kinks right now to put guys in position to be successful,” Murray said. “It should work out.”
The departures in the back start with goaltender Aaron Levy, a first-team All-State pick, but they certainly don’t stop there. Gone is All-American Tim Lyons, as well as starters John McCarthy and Larry Gallogly.
Charged with the task of replacing Levy are junior goalies John Petteruti – who was the back-up a season ago – and Chris Cesario, who was the junior varsity goalie.
As of now, nearly two weeks into practice, nothing has been decided.
“Those guys are going to be in competition to see who’s going to take the spot,” Murray said.
Filling in the voids on defense are seniors Chris MacKenzie, Dan Nolte, Matt Tager and Pat Devine, all of whom were on the team last season. Some younger players are also in the mix.
“We’re re-loading a little bit right now,” Murray said. “But we had some guys last year that were kind of itching to get some time. I don’t like to use the rebuilding word, I think it kind of sounds like an excuse sometimes. I think we’re just re-tooling and trying to work some things out.”
The offense should make that progression a little bit easier, and it starts with junior Alex Perreault.
Perreault, who will likely play midfield but can also play attack, is widely considered to be one of the top players in the state, and he has already given a verbal commitment to Johns Hopkins University.
Joining Perreault at middie is senior Mike Pecchia, who should help replace the loss of faceoff man Mike Mattiello. The Hawks also have returning seniors Scott Henry and Chris McKay, as well as junior Darius Jagminas to rely on at midfield.
At attack, there isn’t a huge amount of experience, but Hendricken does have some quality players back in the fold. Junior C.J. Marrinan, sophomore Conor Garrahy and senior Jack Hendrickson will all contribute, as well as some others.
“I think we’re going to have a pretty well-balanced offensive unit,” Murray said. “I think we’ve got a lot of unselfish kids. We’ve been playing real well so far, moving the ball at practice. I think we’ve got a lot of guys that are going to score this year.”
And with goals, hopefully will come another winning season.
But it won’t be easy. As the defending state champion, the Hawks know there’s a target on their back. That, plus the fact that the six-team Division I figures to be competitive once again, could make the journey far from a cakewalk at times.
Yet, if last year proved anything, it’s that the most important thing is being ready to go when the playoffs come around.
Hendricken plans on being there, and winning its fair share of games along the way.
“The goal for us all the time is to be there at the end,” Murray said. “I don’t go into any season with any lesser expectations. I’m not one of those guys that lives on, we’re young, or we’re inexperienced or whatever. We’ve got 80 kids in the lacrosse program playing right now, between varsity and JV. I’m not going to sit there and say that we’re going to go to the finals, but that’s what we strive for.”
The Hawks are looking forward to the opportunity to defend a state title for the first time since the 2008 season.
“The kids know that, and that’s what the expectations are – to be successful,” Murray said. “I think if you’re not going into it like that, you’re doing the kids a disservice. And I think it’s a realistic goal.”