Last season was the best in the history of the Warwick Vets boys’ lacrosse program. But if 2013 provided a blueprint for success, the players charged with following it this year are almost entirely new.
The ’Canes lost 11 seniors to graduation, including standouts Will Hay, John McNally and Cody Sullivan, as well as goaltender Kyle Corvese. That group led Vets to a 9-3 mark a season ago, and then took it even further with a playoff victory over Tiverton/Rogers in the Division III quarterfinals. Though eventual champion Smithfield knocked off the ’Canes in the semifinals, it was clearly a special season.
With this season nearly underway, Vets finds itself in a spot it hasn’t been in in a few years, having to break in brand new players and teach the game to some of them.
“We lost 11 seniors and the majority of our offense, the majority of our defense, our starting goalie – they’re all gone,” said head coach Fred Schweizer. “In the preseason we’ve been getting to know basically a brand new team, for all intents and purposes.”
The new players will certainly have a learning curve, and plenty still needs to be sorted out, but just because the team is inexperienced doesn’t mean that it has to take any sort of significant step back.
That’s the way Schweizer is approaching it, with similar expectations to the past.
“My expectations haven’t changed,” Schweizer said. “It’s one game at a time for these boys, with the goal being the playoffs.”
Vets has four players on its roster who have seen significant varsity time over the last few years, and they’ll be counted on to step into much bigger roles this year.
At the forefront is junior Mickenzey Pacheco, who was a solid contributor last year as a sophomore. He’s serving as a captain and will anchor the midfield.
“He’s our faceoff guy,” Schweizer said. “He’s going to run our middies. He’s a solid presence in the midfield.”
The team’s other two captains are senior Quentin Nason and junior Connor Thompson. Those two have experience from last season as well.
The fourth player who saw time last season is goaltender Chris Defreitas, a junior. He primarily played in the midfield a year ago, but was also the back-up goaltender and was called into action for the Smithfield playoff game after Corvese was injured.
This year, the goalie job is his full-time.
“He’s doing excellent in the pipes,” Schweizer said.
The rest of the team is a mix of varying levels of experience. Senior David Valladolid has been in the program the past few years and is expected to take a big leap forward this year while playing in the midfield. At attack, senior Ryan Locke will see some time, as will freshman Tim Chaffee, who played at Warwick PAL. Senior Patrick Oliver is in the fold as well.
Defensively, junior Brad Robert has never played lacrosse before, but he’s already caught Schweizer’s attention as someone who could make an immediate impact.
“I think defensively we’re going to be solid, it’s just a matter of figuring out the best set for the offense,” Schweizer said.
Other players on the roster are freshman Jacob Plouffe, sophomores Jared Davenport, Tyler Goff, Chris Grundy, Anthony Lawrence, Cory O’Rourke and Eric Procaccini, juniors Nikone Soupharath and Matt Woods and senior Andrew Zincone.
“They’re a great group of kids, and they’re working extremely hard,” Schweizer said. “I have good expectations in terms of the direction we’re headed, it’s just a matter of trying to find our feet.”
Division III expanded to 14 teams this year, with the top eight making the playoffs. Finding their way into that top eight is a goal that Schweizer thinks is attainable, though he’d rather his young group focus on the task at hand before looking too long term.
“I like to make sure they focus on one game at a time,” Schweizer said. “I believe that five or six wins could get us into the playoffs in Division III but I don’t like to talk to them about the end of the season as we’re moving into the beginning of the season.”
However it shakes out, the ’Canes are excited about what they can accomplish. With all the newcomers, it’s certainly a challenge, but it’s one that no one minds embracing.
“I want them to get better every day, especially this year,” Schweizer said. “To learn from their mistakes and build on their successes. With a newer group of guys, that’s the focus. One day at a time.”
Vets will kick off its regular season on Thursday, when it hosts Coventry at the Bend Street complex at 3:30 p.m.