BERLIN- Optimism abounds as Worcester Prep’s boys’ varsity lacrosse team opens its 2009 campaign next week with veteran senior leadership in certain key positions and a flock of young talent all over the field.
When the Mallards open on the road next week with a rare across-the-bridge game against traditional Baltimore area lacrosse power Towson High School, there will be familiar faces on both ends of the field and a handful of new players hoping to make their mark on the program. Worcester is fairly young across the board with just two seniors in the anticipated starting line-up, but there will be no shortage of talent and experience on the field.
Senior Peter Buas will start in goal for the Mallards, replacing four-year starter Christian Coates, who is now playing at Harvard. Buas emerged as the starter in the net after showing Coach Kevin Gates how much he has improved over the last year.
“I haven’t had to worry about the keeper for four years, but I wasn’t really sure how it was going to play out this year at the position,” said Gates. “In all my years of coaching, I’ve never seen a kid improve as much as Peter has this year. He has worked his tail off and put in the time and earned it. He flat out won the job.”
Fronting Buas will be a steady defense that could be the Mallards’ best unit on the field this year. Senior Stephen Pappas, who Gates said has really stepped up into a leadership role this year, will anchor the defense, while his brother, Jason Pappas, a junior is also expected to be a first-year starter this year. Another defenseman, sophomore Chris Fisher, rounds out the starting defense.
Gates will also have a lot of depth and talent when he rotates his special defensive units onto the field. Junior Hunter Marshall, a three-year starter, returns as a long-stick middie, while a pair of sophomores in Hunter Harmon and Ben Mumford will also rotate in as defensive midfielders. Freshman Ross Perim will also see significant time on defense and as a defensive middie. Sophomore Austin Drachas will back up Buas in goal.
“Overall, I think we’re pretty deep and talented in the defensive end,” said Gates. “Once we get more comfortable playing as a team, I think we’ll get better and better as the year goes on.”
On the offensive end of the field, it all starts with junior Justin Butler, who Gates called one of the best players he has ever coached at Worcester. Butler will play attack and midfield, but will spend most of his time up front where he has developed a penchant for putting the ball in the net. Another key player on the offensive end for the Mallards is Brad Harris, who will also spend time at both midfield and attack.
Sophomore Billy Tyler is expected to see a lot of time with the starting midfield. Up front on attack, Worcester will feature junior Brad Regan and sophomore R. J. Smith. The Mallards also have a pair of talented freshmen expected to make an immediate impact on the program this year. Ryan McGuire will play midfield and attack, while fellow freshman Alex Ternahan will play mostly midfield. Gates said Ternahan is one of his top young players this year.
“When all is said and done, he is going to be one of the players everybody around here talks about,” he said. “He’s that good and the sky really is the limit for him.”
Worcester returns to the Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference (ESIAC) this year after getting away from conference play for a while. The ESIAC features some greatly improved teams from all over the shore and Gates said his team is looking forward to playing for a conference championship.
“We kind of got away from playing in the conference in recent years, but I think the players really missed the opportunity to compete for a title,” he said. “We’d get to the end of our schedule and that was it. There was no finality, no chance for a title at the end. There was no playoff atmosphere.”
Gates has continued his effort to raise the bar with his schedule this year. In addition to the conference games, Worcester will play Baltimore area powerhouses Towson and St. Paul’s, along with Tatnall, St. Mark’s, Tower Hill, St. Andrew’s, Easton and, of course, Decatur, in the big neighborhood rivalry game in April.
“It’s definitely a competitive schedule, but we’ve been trying to ramp it up in recent years,” said Gates. “In the bigger picture, a lot of these kids will get the opportunity to play at the next level in college and part of my responsibility here is getting them prepared for that. I want them to get used to that level of competition so they will be prepared. I don’t want them to move on and be surprised, nor do I want them to get to the next level and crumble.”