Last season was a watershed moment for the Warwick Vets boys’ lacrosse team. After going winless in their first two years as a varsity program, the Hurricanes finally got into the win column – and didn’t stop there. They ended up going 7-5 and winning a playoff game before a close loss to Toll Gate in the Division III semifinals.
Much of the credit for the team’s success went to a big senior class, a group that pushed through the tough years and created something special. They’re gone now and the ’Canes may have some growing pains without them.
But the best news is that the tradition they established is still front and center.
“I miss those guys a lot, but they did a tremendous job of passing on their passion and what they learned to everybody else on that team,” said Vets head coach Fred Schweizer. “They were the ones who were there every day and wanted to build something. Now, I have 25 guys coming to practice every day, and I didn’t always have that. The program owes itself to that group. The leadership and the love of the game that they had has trickled down to the guys we have now.”
That’s a pretty good starting point as the ’Canes try to replace those seniors and continue building the program. The team has some veterans coming back, plus a lot of new players. The common thread for everybody is the feeling that has carried over from last year.
“They’re very excited to be back out on the field,” Schweizer said. “This program has been built on passion, and I’ve seen that in the captains and the seniors. They’re doing just what the seniors did last year – leading and helping new kids learn the game. They’re taking over that role.”
The ’Canes don’t yet know what that’ll mean when they take the field, but Schweizer is confident that the team will be able to compete. The team turned a corner last year and doesn’t plan on going back.
“We did lose a lot of talented players, but we have some talent coming back,” Schweizer said. “We also have kids with very little experience, so it’s a mix. Until we get on the field, it’s difficult to tell exactly what we’re capable of. What I like is that we have a very good work ethic. They’re giving me 110 percent of what they have and we’re definitely seeing the progression.”
The ’Canes will be led by senior captains John McNally, Dan Pickering and Billy MacCrae. They all play in different areas of the field, so they’ll give Vets experienced leadership in every facet.
McNally anchors the defense. He’ll likely have some newcomers around him, but the ’Canes do have experience in net. Junior Kyle Corvese returns for his third year as a starter.
In the midfield, Pickering and junior Shawn Goff will lead the way. A handful of other players have some experience, and Vets will mix in some new players as well. Up front, the ’Canes are led by MacCrae and junior Cody Sullivan.
“We’re still working out who’s going to fit in where, but they’re doing everything I ask of them,” Schweizer said. “A lot of them are brand new to the system, but they’re working hard and picking it up quick.”
Since the ’Canes don’t have much experience to lean on, the focus is on the fundamentals.
“We’re going to build on the basics,” Schweizer said. “It’s how to execute ground balls and getting possessions – all those kinds of things. I think those are going to be crucial to our success.”
If the ’Canes catch on quickly, they should be in position to have some success. Division III has three first-year programs this season, and the recent history of the league indicates that there will be parity even among the more experienced teams. Last year, Smithfield and Toll Gate played for the championship after putting up losing records the year before.
“Division III is so up and down from year to year, that it’s tough to know how everybody stacks up,” Schweizer said.
But with a foundation to build on and a team that’s ready to improve, the ’Canes plan to be in the mix.
“It’s just going to be about the development with these guys,” Schweizer said. “The deeper into the season we get and the more experience we get, the better we’re going to be. We just have to get out on the field and see what we can do.”