Boys lacrosse: Experienced team looks to extend season

Shelton High’s boys lacrosse team has plenty of experienced players back in the fold (seven starters) and the Gaels are hoping to get off to a strong start and put themselves into position for deeper postseason runs than in seasons past.

The Gaels have struggled out of the gate, dropping their first four games in each of the past three campaigns, before turning things around for a winning or at least .500 regular season record each time.

“We’ve got to take care of business right now and get going. When we get going we’re usually a very competitive team,” said coach Matt Read, whose Gaels ended up 10-8 overall in 2017, including a first-round Southern Connecticut Conference tournament loss to Cheshire and a Class L state bracket qualifying-round setback to Brien McMahon of Norwalk.

Shelton captured the SCC Division II regular season championship last spring. The goal this year is to pick up some postseason wins as well.

Things certainly don’t start out easily with the Gaels. Following a bus ride to Lewis Mills in Burlington for the Monday, April 2, opener, at 4 p.m., they host Guilford the next night at 7.

“They’ve had our number,” Read said of Guilford.

Among the next four teams on the slate are three the Gaels beat a season ago: Masuk (which Shelton defeated for the first time last spring), Jonathan Law and West Haven. Defending SCC champ Fairfield Prep is among the top early tests.

North Haven, Foran, Branford, Hamden, Amity and FCIAC team Trumbull are challenging games on the schedule in the second half of the season.  

Captains are defender/long stick midfielder Matt Rice and defensive midfielder Josh Mauriello.

“I’m really excited. Just excited to play lacrosse as always. We have a young group, but have experience on offense and defense,” Rice said.

That front line includes Nick Pavone, Nick Pagliuso and Case Brennan, who combined for about 150 points last year, according to Read.

Also back is the team’s top-scoring midfielder, Connor Greene, who logged 30-plus points, along with Cole Krajcsik, another of Shelton’s top offensive midfielders.

Tyler Pjatak returns as Shelton’s top faceoff specialist.

Returning defenders include Rice, Jack Carr and Jake Roberts.

“I think the team’s going to do great,” said Mauriello, adding that the coaching staff is doing a great job of getting the Gaels prepared for the start of the campaign.

The junior varsity coach is Rob Milne.

“He understands how to motivate, organize, and teach the players skills and strategy to be complete players,” Read said of Milne. “He is very methodical and focuses on the basics to bring it down to a common level for all to absorb.”

Chris Buzi works with the defense and coaches the varsity in games.

“He has been a positive influence on our players, teaching them our system and learning skills compatible to the college game as well,” Read said.

William Wood, a former Gael captain, has been part of the program during the last five years in a part time role, working with goaltenders, including Tim Schiffer, who is currently playing club lacrosse at UConn. “He also works with our offense, attackmen especially to help build their skills and confidence,” Read said.

In addition to experienced defenders and attack players, the lineup is young overall, with many of these returnees sophomores and juniors. There are also several varsity newcomers looking to make their marks.

“We’ve got a few new guys learning the game who are athletic,” Read said.

One area that is not experienced at the varsity level is the position of goaltender. Sophomores Daschel Kline and Isaiah DeLoatch are vying for time between the pipes.

“We’ve got a good group. They’re pretty close with each other, good character overall. We’ve got a lot of unselfish players,” Read said.