Where did the time go?
The start of the boys lacrosse postseason is right around the corner, and it still feels like Hamburg just returned home from its annual trip down south having split two games against Virginia state powers. Even Clarence coach Mike Silverstein is amazed how fast time has flown by this season.
“It feels like just the other day we were in the gym,” Silverstein said this week. “It’s really given us a test as far as our endurance and competitiveness.”
That’s because Clarence is among the teams that have played back-to-back or played three games in five days this season due to the excessively wet spring. The busy Red Devils recently defeated perennial power Orchard Park, 12-7, and enter the last week of the season with a 10-2 mark – feeling pretty good about their chances of contending for the Section VI Class A title.
The seeding meeting for the postseason is Wednesday with play-in games slated for Friday if either the Class A, B or C bracket calls for them.
“In terms of our ability to compete, I don’t know if we have the same athletes as in 2011,” said Silverstein of the only year Clarence won the sectional title. “But we like to compete. We’ve got good workhorses for us this year.”
That includes do-it-all junior Josh Slowinski, who set four single-game school records during Friday’s win over Akron. He set marks for most goals (eight), most points (13), most faceoff wins (33) and most groundballs (30).
The groundballs record for a single game was 16.
For the season, Slowinski has 169 groundballs, 37 goals and 27 assists as he leads a deep midfield unit that is Clarence’s strength along with Lex Oakes (31 goals) and Ben Harsch. Oakes will play for Canisius next year. Senior Steve Weppner (31 goals) is a three-year starter and junior Nick Godin (23 goals, 21 assists) can play both midfield and attack.
OP reloads, wins
Orchard Park (11-3, 8-1 in league) may have lost its last encounter with Clarence but that is its only loss to a Western New York team as the defending Section VI Class A champion’s other two came against Rochester-area teams.
The fact the Quakers are where they are is a testament to the program as most of the players on this year’s edition (12 of 15) are first-year players, although one of the experienced players on the team is senior Adam Belica, who leads OP with 39 goals.
“He’s a great shooter, he gets into open spaces,” Quakers coach Gene Tundo said.
Another big gun for OP is Kevin McParlane, who Tundo says is a great shooter, great passer and quite the playmaker.
The team will be without injured junior Matt Perla, who has already given a verbal commitment to Albany and is one of the top defenders in Western New York. The Quakers also are without do-everything senior Chris Murphy (hand), but OP still is the stingiest defensive team in Western New York, yielding just 4.79 goals per game. Sophomore Ron Shul ranks second on OP with 64 groundballs. Senior John Wellington has 74 groundballs, while classmates Brett McMullen and Brian Fitch are strong defenders.
“We just have a group that plays hard,” said Tundo, whose Quakers have won 21 sectional titles the past 23 seasons.
Bulldogs the hunted
Hamburg has won seven of the last eight Section VI Class B titles. Even though the Bulldogs are somewhat of a shadow of last year’s state semifinalist team, they still are considered the standard and team to beat in what figures to be a gauntlet of a playoff bracket.
Key returnees from last year include senior Lucas Shafer, who will attend Division II Lake Erie in Painesville, Ohio, and had 36 goals and 55 points in Hamburg’s first 10 games. Sophomore Evan Hollfelder has a finishing touch, too. Senior Matt Borgese gives his team a 50-50 chance of possessing the ball in the faceoff circle and has chipped in with 15 goals.
The Ryan brothers, sophomore Brendan and senior Griffin, lead the Bulldogs in ground balls with 38 and 34, respectively. Griffin Ryan has 26 takeaway checks.
“They’re starting to play well,” 10th-year Hamburg coach Jerry Severino said. “Their eyes are on what their legacy is going to be.”
Williamsville East has six returnees from last year’s team that lost to the Bulldogs in the semifinals who hope to help the Flames take that next step.
Fourth-year starter and returning All-WNY pick Colin Greenway not only is the quarterback of the Flames’ attack but is also the school’s all-time leader in goals (150) and points (310). He’s coming off a 102-point season, a single-season record for East, and currently has 33 goals and 43 assists. Long stick Blake Rickan is coming off second team All-WNY honors, and coach Ed Greenway considers the fourth-year starter and future Canisius Golden Griffin the top defender in the area.
The Flames had won 11 straight, but Niagara-Wheatfield (10-3) brought an end to that streak with an 8-6 win Saturday. Syracuse-bound midfielder Brennan Ferguson leads the N-W attack. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder has 33 goals and 30 assists as he had a goal and three assists in Saturday’s win. Ferguson’s sister, Kristiana, currently plays for Syracuse’s women’s team. N-W has lost the last two sectional finals to Hamburg. James Stenzel, Seth Ferguson and Ryan Koch are other key players for the Falcons, who last won Class B in 2011.
Iroquois begins the final week of the regular season 10-4. College-bound long pole John Cleary (Canisius) and goalie Dallas Meyers (Brockport) anchor a defense that allows the fifth fewest goals per game (6.38) in the area. Anthony Vedella and Derek Andrews each have scored around 30 goals. The secrets of the Chiefs’ success – faceoff men Colton Reformat, a senior, and junior John Seibert each have won 73 percent of their faceoffs.
“They don’t lose. It’s been a make it, take it year for me,” Kincella said.
Contenders line up in C
Akron is one of a few teams that looks like it could prevent reloading Silver Creek from winning its sixth straight sectional championship.
One thing the Tigers (10-2) do exceptionally well is score goals as returning second team All-WNY pick Larson Sundown leads an offense that’s averaging 18.9 per game – tops in Western New York. Sundown is receiving Division I interest from Albany, Syracuse and Ohio State, while teammate and long pole midfielder Chaunce Hill is being pursued by Albany and Cornell.
Eighth-grader Owen Hill has been a huge addition for the Tigers, coach Bryan Bellis said. He logs a ton of minutes and can play both sides of the field.
Salamanca (10-1) enters the last week of the regular season with nearly a flawless record as the Warriors’ only blemish came against Niagara-Wheatfield. Salamanca also boasts a win over Akron as senior Cyrus Spruce leads a well-rounded team under second-year coach Jeremiah Vova. Senior defenseman Andrew Rozler is another solid player.
“We don’t have a lot of key guys. They’re all pretty good,” Vova said.
Don’t sleep on East Aurora as the Blue Devils have a strong middie in Mike Franz who is also tough to beat in the faceoff circle, while Drew Horton and Josh Clancy are solid attackers.
Silver Creek is 5-6 in the post-Zed Williams era. Three of the losses (to East Aurora, N-W and Salamanca) are by a combined eight goals.
Amherst has already won more games than last season as it hits the home stretch 7-7. Key returnees include goalie Brian Thielman, midfielder Jim Chadwick and defender Christian Green.
Around the cages
• Class A Frontier features one of the top defenseman in the area in senior Pat Quinlivan, who will play next season at Brockport. Talented long-stick midfielder Connor Harmin returned to the Falcons after playing his sophomore season at St. Francis. Harmin has already caught the eye of several Division I and II schools.
• Lancaster (7-4) also figures to be a player in Class A under first-year coach David Mazur. Alex Juhasz is coming off a 34-goal, 71-point season.
• Lockport was bolstered in the ninth year of its program by the addition of a modified team so it can introduce players to the sport at a younger age and add to the program’s depth.
• Wilson sophomore middie Jacob Rice was selected to Nike Rising Freshman Team. Teammate Justin Westmorland is a 6-foot-3, 220-pound physical force in midfield averaging three goals per game.