After going five years without winning a playoff game, the Toll Gate lacrosse team has made deep runs each of the last two seasons. The Titans lost in the Division III championship game in 2011 and fell in the semifinals last year.
As the Titans get set for the 2013 season, they’ve got some holes to fill and some work to do, but a new standard has been set.
They don’t want to let it slip.
“It’s always the goal for our program to get into the postseason and make some noise,” said head coach Mike Vadney. “I see us getting there, and if we can get all our pieces together, then I think we can compete.”
The quest won’t come without its challenges. The Titans have lost a lot of talent to graduation the past two seasons, including 10 players from last year’s team. This year, the biggest holes to fill are at attack, where two seniors graduated and Kyle Ellis transferred to Bishop Hendricken. At the other end, standout goalie Josh Giarrantano also graduated.
“We’ve got some holes to fill,” Vadney said. “We’re kind of rebuilding the attack and we’ll have a new goalie. This weather has been brutal, too, so I feel like we’re a little bit behind where we usually are.”
All that said, though, the Titans remain optimistic.
“Expectations are definitely still high,” Vadney said.
Toll Gate has a big group of seniors, some of whom will reprise their roles from last year and others who will move to new positions.
The most important area of shuffling is the attack. The trio of Ellis, Casey Correia and Kevin Vittum was responsible for a big chunk of Toll Gate’s production last season. It may not be quite so natural this season, with midfielders moving to attack, but there’s potential. Seniors Derryck Anderson, Alex Welch and Anthony Zelano are on the move, along with sophomores Anthony Ottone and Jack Sullivan.
“The biggest thing is just learning the motion of the attack,” Vadney said. “In the midfield, it’s kind of a big, open game. Attack is an in-close, personal game. You have to read each other and get that rhythm. It might take some time, but I think they’ll get there.”
The good news for the Titans is that the attack won’t have to shoulder every bit of the scoring load, as it sometimes did last year. The midfield is more experienced, and Vadney expects players like Brendan Murray, Steve Mathews and Jesse Butler to provide some offensive punch.
“Last year, most of our offense was generated by the attack,” Vadney said. “In some of our scrimmages, we were able to get some offense from the midfield, and that’s a nice change from last year. They’re not afraid to shoot. They’re more confident and we’re telling them to just rip it.”
Vadney expects the defense to be a strength, as well, with seniors Mike Palumbo and Colby Connell leading the way. Both were key players last year. They’ll be joined by juniors Joe Mercurio and Dave Stachurski, as well as newcomer Jackson Burgos, a junior.
In a set of scrimmages at Warwick Vets on Saturday, the defense didn’t shine as much as Vadney hoped, but he thinks the unit will come around.
“There was some unfamiliarity with where they needed to be,” Vadney said. “Part of that is we haven’t been able to practice outside much. We have a week to get it squared away. Hopefully, the defense will be our strong suit again.”
In net, senior John Coleman will replace Giarrantano after serving as a backup last year.
“We’re hoping to have as much success with John as we’ve had with Josh the last few years,” Vadney said.
The Titans will once again play in Division III, but as usual, they won’t know exactly what to expect. Three more new programs – Cranston East, Cranston West and Chariho – are joining the league this year after three joined last year.
“You never know with this division,” Vadney said. “There’s three new teams and we just play every team once, so that’s always a little tough. But it’s an eight-team playoffs, and I think we’ve got a good shot to get back there.”
The Titans will start their season against one of the new teams – Cranston East – on Monday at 3:30 p.m. at Cranston Stadium.