CONWAY — With more than half of the program made up by 15 sophomores, the future looks bright for the Kennett High boys’ lacrosse team. While the Eagles may take some lumps in the always competitive Division II early on, they plan to let every team know the hometown flock is here to compete for four quarters.
Steve Graustein takes over the program from Alec Frankel, who guided the Eagles for three seasons. Graustein brings a wealth of knowledge of the sport from coaching at Fryeburg Academy and across the Mount Washington Valley. He will be doing double-duty this spring, handling both the varsity and junior varsity coaching responsibilities.
“We’re a young team,” Graustein said Sunday. “We only have eight upperclassmen (four seniors and four juniors), but we have a boatload of sophomores out. We also have a ton of eighth-graders who will be coming up next year. We’re young, we're rebuilding, but we’ve got some talent.”
Ed Fayle, Michael Murphy and John Barry are helping as volunteers for the program.
There are 27 boys out for the lacrosse program this spring, including seniors — Adam Bourque, Callum Hawkes, Ryan Murphy and Daniel Weeder; juniors — Dakota Field, Trevor LaRusso, Reilly Murphy and Caleb Snyder; sophomores — Ethan Baillargeon, Cole Bryant, Matthew Cormier, Tyler Dascoulias, Gavin Eldridge-Ferry, Atticus Fayle, Gavin Gagne, Bobby Graustein, Asher Hardy, Parker Mustapha, Dalton Petell, Braden Santuccio, Brady Shaw, Colin Taylor and Bryson Wrobleski; and freshmen — Tanner Bennett, Aiden Costello, Sean Morgan and Colby Olivier.
KHS will also have team statisticians in Connor Tofflemoyer and Colby Swanson who are both recovering from injuries.
The Eagles finished 3-11 last year (2-12 in 2017) for the regular season in their fourth season in Division II.
Kennett lost 11 seniors — Travis Arnold, Connor Doucet, Conner Furtado, Chase Lee, Sean Maloney, Brett Miller, Trevor Mills, Mackenzie Murphy, Zac Phaneuf, Josh Rivers, Declan Thibodeau — to graduation last spring.
Mackenzie Murphy received the KHS Lacrosse Award for 2018.
No. 1 seed Derryfield cruised past No. 2 seed Portsmouth 11-6 on June 9 to win the Division II championship at Bill Ball Stadium in Manchester.
“There are a lot of really good teams in Division II,” said Graustein.
The weather has played havoc with the preseason for all of the Kennett teams this spring. For each of the past three years, the Eagles have had to shovel snow to get onto their field. This year, with more than two feet of the white frozen stuff on the field three weeks into preseason practice, shoveling was not an option. The school brought in a compact track loader with a snowblower from RWN Property Services of Conway to help clear the boys and girls lacrosse fields. Unfortunately, with a ton of snow surrounding the cleared fields, they filled with pools of water from the runoff. Throw in six inches of fresh snow on Monday and Tuesday, and the Eagles have been able to get on grass just once, and that was 107 miles away.
“We were able to go to Pinkerton Academy where we played half-field controlled situation,” Graustein said.
KHS was scheduled to open the season on the road in Wolfeboro on Tuesday against arch-rivals Kingwood, but the was postponed due to snow. It is now slated for Thursday, April 18 at 5:30 p.m., weather permitting.
The Eagles are slated to play their first three matches away from the friendly confines atop Eagles’ Way with Opening Day now scheduled for Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. against Oyster River in Durham, followed by the Kingswood contest and an April 19 trek to Manchester to play Manchester Memorial-West at 4:30 p.m.
Oyster River is 0-1 after falling 11-4 to St. Thomas (1-0) in Dover on Tuesday.
Kennett is scheduled to play its home-opener against Spaulding on April 30 at 4 p.m.
Graustein said a number of the Eagles are experienced players. The four seniors will be counted on to play key roles and minutes this season. Bourque and Hawkes will play some attack and midfield, while Weeder is a long stick midfielder and Murphy will return in goal and can also play defense.
“I’m counting on our senior leadership,” said Graustein.
Juniors Murphy and LaRusso will play in midfield and attack, respectively, while Snyder can play attack and goalie, and Field will likely see action as a midfielder and in the attack.
Sophomores being counted on at the varsity level include Graustein (midfield and in goal); Bryant (attack and midfield); Cormier (attack and midfield); Gagne (defense); Petell (midfield and attack); Wrobleski (defense); Eldridge-Ferry (attack) and Shaw (long stick middle).
Graustein is carrying one freshman, Bennett, who is a solid defender.
The Eagles have talked about goals for the season.
“We want to make the program better and to improve our lacrosse IQ,” Graustein said. “One of the big goals for this season is for us to be respected by every team we play. Teams may beat us but they are going to know they’ve been in a game.”
The Eagles are also looking for community support for a fundraiser they are currently running. Graustein said the team is currently selling boxes of frozen cookies. You get 40 cookies for $20. All proceeds go toward the purchase of the Hudl video review and analysis tool for the team. You can buy cookies from any member of the lacrosse team.