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2023 Woodstock Academy boys lacrosse season preview

Woodstock Academy third-year head coach Jason Tata peered out over the turf at the Bentley Athletic Complex last week.

It was filled with high school boys wielding lacrosse sticks.

Tata wasn’t about to contain the joy that he was feeling.

“I’m ecstatic,” he admitted.

Of course, there is always the downside to have over 50 student-athletes turn out for the program.

Cuts were about to be made.

But it’s always better to have a choice rather than making a last-second pitch in the hallways to make sure the program has enough players to make it through a season.

Tata was also quick to heap praise where it was due.

It wasn’t he who was responsible for everybody showing up.

It was his players.

“I told the boys at the end of last season that the only way we were going to build the program was by building the numbers. You can’t build a program when you are scraping by with numbers and the guys did an absolutely incredible job. Journey (Jacob Jurnovoy) and Jared Neilsen went to the hockey team and pulled a bunch of hockey kids. Evan Roy went out to the football team and even Cahan Quinn, our assistant coach and an assistant in football, recruited football players. We’re just pulling kids from other teams.” Tata said.

For Jurnovoy, who served as captain of the highly successful boys hockey team, it’s his last season at Woodstock Academy.

“I love this sport. I love playing it. It’s going to be sad once I leave,” the senior admitted. “I think we can improve. I’m seeing a lot of good talent out there. Chemistry is looking really good after the first few practices.”

It's not like the Centaurs lost a lot of numbers to graduation.

Only six departed the team after an 8-9 season a year ago, but those six did have impact.

Jonah Libby, now playing at Messiah University, led Woodstock Academy with 93 points. Jon Pokorny was the starting goalie, Tyler Green was the heart of the defense and Zach Girard, Will Chambers and Everett Michalski all made solid contributions.

“It’s kind of the beauty of high school sports,” Tata said. “It’s the next-man-up mentality and every time you get to tryouts, it’s like who will step up. Who will be that guy? Who will fill in those spots?”

Jurnovoy will be one of those who may have to fill the void left by Libby as he and Neilsen finished second in scoring for the team a year ago with 48 points each while Zach Gessner added 47.

“I’m hoping to, at least, hit the 50 (point) mark this season. I’ve really been working on my game in the offseason so hopefully it will show during the season,” Jurnovoy said.

For Tata, it may mean a different approach.

Jurnovoy likely will anchor the first midfield line.

But who will be alongside him?

To be determined.

“It’s kind of cool, watching the tryouts, and trying to set up our lines and it’s like, ‘These three kids are playing really well together, that could be a line.’ We’re using the link ups with the other sports, the hockey kids and the football kids, because the chemistry is already there,” Tata said about his midfield.

Seniors Michael Burns, Andrew Newton, Will Basiliere, Quintavanh Sangasy, Chance Graley and Cashel Noel  will all see time in the midfield as could juniors Henry Wotton, Lucas Theriaque and sophomores Gunnar Basak, Sam Clark and Keegan Covello.

Same thing with the offense.

There may not be that 100-point scorer so, instead, Tata said it will be “death by a thousand paper cuts.”

“I want other teams to look at us and say, ‘Who can’t score?’ as opposed to who is the No. 1 guy. If you look at the depth of our team, everyone in the midfield can put it in the back of the net consistently. That will be a huge part of our game,” Tata said.

Up front, the Centaurs will depend on seniors like Gessner, junior Ryan Wallace and both Theriaque and Basak who will play both up front and in the middle.

Senior Evan Roy will anchor the defense with help from juniors Sam Lescault, Seamus McDermott and Jacob Lizotte.

“We are now in our third year of using the same system. We’re hitting our stride and don’t have to feel worried about the X’s and O’s because these guys are walking in, knowing what we’re expecting, and know what they have to do,” Tata said.

In goal, senior Kaiden Keddy, who was in goal for the Centaurs in hockey, returns to the net in lacrosse with freshman Quantiwah Sangasy backing him up.

“I wanted to see that hockey mentality from Kaiden at least a little bit and he’s already shown night-and-day improvement over last year. Quan is stepping up and looking great in net as a freshman,” Tata said.

The Woodstock Academy coach will get to know what his team is capable of quickly.

They travel to East Lyme to open the season on Saturday at 11 a.m. and then host Waterford on Tuesday.

The Vikings and Lancers shared the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I title last year.

“These kids know what the bigger games are and have already started to circle them on our schedule. That first East Lyme game and Waterford coming in. I love hard competition but the gap is closing,” Tata said.