Having lost nine regulars from last year, the Wilton High boys lacrosse team will clearly need several players to step up if the Warriors are to meet their usual high expectations.
Just don't expect Wilton to lower the bar.
“The goals of our team are to get to both of our (conference and state) tournament championship games and win them. We understand those are lofty goals but those are the expectations of the Wilton lacrosse program every season,” said new head coach Steve Pearsall.
And the Warriors have the work ethic it takes to succeed, believes Pearsall, who spent 10 years as an assistant to John Wiseman, serving as associate coach and offensive coordinator, before being named head coach when Wiseman resigned after last season.
Wilton went 13-7 overall a year ago, reaching the FCIAC semifinals and the Class L state quarterfinals.
This season's captains are goalie Andrew Calabrese, attackman Dean DiNanno, and defender Tyler Previte. Calabrese was named to the All-American and All-State teams last spring.
“We have a veteran defense and goalie and some proven scoring threats. But while we have some top individual talent that will play at the next level there is no one that holds himself above the rest of team. I’m encouraged by the lunch-pail attitude of our players and willingness to put in the hard work,” Pearsall said.
Among the notable graduation losses were All-American and All-State midfielder Joe Scarfi and All-State selections Brian Calabrese (attack) and Robbie Hermann (defensive midfield). Also gone is All-State midfielder Connor Drake, a Duke commit who transferred to prep school for his senior season.
“We lost great players at basically every position and we have players at multiple positions, particularly in the midfield and on attack, that are young or inexperienced or both, but their lack of varsity experience does not lower the bar or our expectations for those players or our trust in them,” Pearsall said.
Key players in the mix for the Warriors include senior defenders Ryan Schriber and Drew Herlyn; senior midfielders Liam Sullivan, Dylan Kennedy, Matt Graham, and Andrew Luciano; junior defender Jack DiRocco; and junior midfielder Reilly Sullivan. Schriber was an All-State selection in 2018.
Pearsall will look for his team to make daily improvements as the Warriors push forward on their quest to remain among the state's elite.
“Sounds cliché but we need to get better every day,” Pearsall said. “It will take a combination of increasing our individual skills, teamwork, conditioning, and chemistry.”
Nothing like stiff competition to help prepare a team and make it better. The Warriors will face plenty of that — in and out of the conference.
Tough FCIAC competition stands to come from Darien, Ridgefield, New Canaan, Greenwich, Staples, and Fairfield Ludlowe, according to Pearsall.
Challenging out-of-conference battles loom with New York programs Chaminade, Yorktown and John Jay, as well as Fairfield Prep and Mercer Island, a perennial powerhouse from the state of Washington.
“I try to put together the toughest schedule possible to make us better prepared for the playoffs,” said Pearsall.“It’s probably the most difficult schedule we've had in 10 years because of our out-of-conference games.
“I think our entire coaching staff would say we are happy to be back on the field coaching and working with the team and are really looking forward to the season,” Pearsall added.