Competitive new group to lead the way for Shelton

Captaining Shelton boys lacrosse are Jeff Wojtowicz, Jake Gigliotti and C.J. Turko.

Captaining Shelton boys lacrosse are Jeff Wojtowicz, Jake Gigliotti and C.J. Turko.

Shelton High Athletics / Contributed photo

Shelton boys’ lacrosse lost a slew of seniors to graduation. What coach Matt Read has in front of him is a talented sophomore and junior class, plus a group of freshmen, who will help the Gaels create depth going forward while still being able to compete.

“I had 11 kids graduate. I have a lot of athletes this year who came out after playing other sports -- soccer, rugby, football, basketball players,” Read said. “This group is competitive. It’s just about teaching them the game to the point where we can get wins.”

Shelton opened with a 4-3 loss to Masuk.

Read said: “C.J. Turko had two goals, Logan Weiss one. All were assisted by Jake Gigliotti. Wojo (Jeff Wojtowicz) is a stopper. He is a big kid, strong, with great positioning and foot work in goal. He keeps us in games. He made 10 or 11 saves. I couldn’t have asked my defense to do much better.”

Turco, Gigliotti and Wojtowicz captain one of the fastest group of kids coached by Read, now in his 11th season.

“We have an entire sophomore class, juniors, and a freshman who can absolutely fly,” Read said. “Being able to get to the ball, advance the ball, making a dodge (past a defender) really makes a difference in the game. Once their stick skills improve, they will flourish.

“Last year I had Riley Brennan, Billy Zaccagnini, Colin McGuire and Jared Sedlock, who is every coach’s dream. Their speed was good. The kids we have now are very good as a group. If we can utilize that it will really help us out.”

Senior Troy Mandulak, sophomore Bobby DelBuono and junior John De Camps lead the defense.

“John has been a pleasant surprise,” Read said of De Camps, a 6-3, 175-pound transport from the football field. “He had never touched a stick before this season. But with his athleticism, and if he had been here for two years, John would be making noise (in the area). He has great instincts on defense and is good on the ball. He is a physical, but a smart physical kid.”

He added: “Ricky Feola (football, basketball) just came out and will be in midfield. He played youth. He has picked up things these past 10 days. Josh Pereira (soccer, rugby) is extremely fast. He and another sophomore Nick Schildknecht have been working together since middle of the winter. They have raised their game.”

Charlie DiLieto, Jake Zaccagnini and Griffin Marcyncyk join Turco on attack.

Midfield is a strength.

“We have Jake Gigliotti, freshman Nico Romano, and Logan Weiss, Ben Hoponick, who can play attack as well,” Read said. “Jack DiLieto is a long stick midfielder, an excellent skilled defender, and great ground ball man. Enrico Barone is a short stick midfielder, very strong and effective in that position.”

Weiss and Hoponick are faceoff specialists.

Schildknecht leads a ton of sophomores favored by Read, who said he has more freshmen out than in recent seasons.

“We need to take time to get their feet under them since we have so many new players in the mix,” he said. “We will try to possess the ball more. Once we establish our offense, we have a lot of movement to get open for shots.

College trained

Read said: “I want to teach these kids the game and get them to the next level. It’s worked out well with the kids we’ve had recruited to schools. We’ve had 10-15 kids go on to play in the last five years alone. That is neat, what our program has done and what hard work those kids have put in.”

From last year’s squad, Jared Sedlock is at Ithaca, Billy Zaccagnini plays at Western New England and Evan Azary at King’s College (PA).

“Our team two years ago that didn’t play because of the pandemic was one of the best teams I had in years. Not being able to compete with them was awful.” Read said. “We had Tyler Pjatak, who is an important cog at Mercy, a top 10 Division II program, Nick Pagliuso, who is at Endicott where he led the league in scoring as a rookie and was player of the year. Jack Carr was at UMass, he just transferred to Sacred Heart.”

Learning curve

“If you look at last year’s Class L championship, Ridgefield runs a zone. They run a ball-protection offense. They have the skills to run-and-gun, but they play such a disciplined game start to finish,” Read said of the division champs. “I would love to get to the point where we were like that. It is going to take a lot of work with fundamentals. But I believe our athleticism will matchup with most teams. It’s taking that athleticism and making it into a lacrosse player.”

Unforgiving schedule

“We are still in Division I, team number nine,” Read said. “We are going to take some lumps this year, but I think it will be a good learning experience. Playing Masuk, our town over rival, gave us a good look at the competitiveness and the physicality that we’ll face. We’ll get better with our sticks to play the big boys like Prep, Hand, Guilford. I can keep going, NDWH, Cheshire. These are all teams in the mix (for titles) virtually every year. Our competition is at a high level. We won’t be able to hide.” Twitter: @blox354