CONWAY — “At least we’re playing,” that how Coach Steve Graustein sums up this spring for the Kennett High boys’ lacrosse team amid all of the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has created.
“I couldn’t say that last year,” Graustein, who is in his third year at the helm of the program, said by phone on Tuesday. “Doing remote last year was one of the most interesting things I’ve ever participated in. Fortunately, we had a group of boys who stuck it out and earned their varsity letters.”
The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association canceled all spring sports in 2020 due to the coronavirus. Kennett’s sports teams met virtually through that spring working on skills and drills. The Eagles even held spring sports awards with Coach Graustein presenting the KHS Lacrosse Award to then-seniors Trevor LaRusso and Reilly Murphy.
Members of this year’s team include seniors Ethan Baillargeon, Atticus “House” Fayle, Gaven Eldridge-Ferry, Gaven Gagne, Bobby Graustein, Dalton Petell, Brad Santuccio, Brady Shaw and Bryson Wrobleski; juniors Tanner Bennett; Evan Fisette, Isaiah Monica and Sean Morgan; sophomores Sean Carrier, Aiden Colbath, Jacob Infinger, Carver Petell and Kyle Stearns; and freshman Robbie Murphy.
Members of the junior varsity squad are juniors Griffin McAuliffe, Aiden Costello and Colin Sheldon; sophomores Sawyer Battles, Jackson Burke, Bradley Finn, MacCary Kelsch, Mack Mudgett and Cooper Santuccio; and freshmen Caiden Graves, Braedon Grieb, Nathaniel Lynn, Peter Rogers, Carter Tasker, Sam Treshinsky and Micah White.
Joining Graustein on the sideline are assistant John Barry and JV Coach Trent Weston.
“John is kind of a mentor for me,” Graustein said of Barry. “He coached at Pinkerton Academy for more than 30 years, he’s a legend.”
There are 35 boys out for the program. Graustein is carrying 19 boys on the varsity team.
Gagne, Graustein and Dalton Petell are the team captains.
“It was a democratic process, I’m happy with the choices,” said Graustein.
He added: “One of the things I like about this year’s team is the leadership of all of the older guys. They’ve played together a lot. I’m also starting to see the sophomores step up and are starting to fit in and contribute.”
Kennett fell in season-opener to Plymouth on the road, 12-5 on April 20. Due to COVID contact tracing, the Eagles were missing players and had been limited in their preseason practices before the match. KHS trailed 3-2 after the first quarter, 6-4 at halftime and 10-4 after the third quarter.
Dalton Petell scored two goals for KHS and led the team with five ground balls. Graustein, Murphy and Fayle also netted goals. For Fayle and Murphy it was their first varsity goal.
Making his debut in goal, Stearns made seven saves.
The Eagles were sharper and had a deeper bench in an exhibition game against Stateline neighbors Fryeburg Academy last Friday. On Senior Day for the Eagles, Kennett fell behind 2-0 to the Raiders in the first quarter on two Will Galligan goals, but then rattled off the final 15 goals in the match for the 15-2 win.
Infinger, who scored his first varsity goal in the first quarter, finished the day with four goals. Graustein also scored four times and added four assists.
Fisette and Mojica also netted their first varsity goals and finished with three and two, respectfully, on the day. Ferry also netted a pair of goals and added an assist.
The ground ball leader for the game was Wrobleski with six of the team’s 21.
The Eagles were successful on 15 of 44 shot attempts.
Stearns made eight saves in the win.
“Kyle is doing a very good job,” said Graustein. “For a first-year goalie only playing his second game, he’s eager to learn and wants to get better.”
Coach sees defense as one of the team’s strong suits with Wrobleski, Bennett and Gagne. Santuccio and Shaw also help the defense as long stick middies.
The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association had an open tournament last fall and winter for multiple sports with everyone making the playoffs and initially playing in a regionalized cluster in the opening rounds of post-season play.
“I think the open tournament is a very good thing,” said Graustein. “It’s fair for everyone. It means we’ll all get another game and hopefully more.”
The Eagles have talked about goals for the season.
“We want to make the program better and to improve our lacrosse IQ,” Graustein said. “We want to improve our overall playing ability. Secondly, we want to win some games, hopefully, more than two years ago; have a good showing in each game and be competitive. The kids are working hard.”
Kennett is scheduled to host rival Kingswood on Tuesday (4 p.m.) in the first game of a home-and-home series, which is slated to wrap up in Wolfeboro on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.