Thursday April 4, 2013 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
Taylor Mitchell (middle) will look to help Eden take strides for the program after a busy offseason of playing lacrosse. (Photos courtesy of David Eckhardt)
Improving any high school sports program begins with playing the sport more often in the offseason. More female lacrosse players at Eden are beginning to take that step.
Although the Raiders only return three seniors, their probably a more experienced teams than ones in the past because of team members playing in the summer and participating in tournaments during the fall.
A program still in its infancy, Eden will try to better recent one- to two-win seasons with a team that’s got a little more playing time as a whole under its belt.
“We’re hoping to improve upon last year — in the offseason, we did a lot of work,” said second-year head coach Phil Archabald, whose team went 2-8 last season, beating Springville and Buffalo Seminary. “We’re hoping that the work done outside of school will payoff.”
It still won’t be easy as the six-school Class C will feature defending champion Amherst and finalist Lake Shore, two of the toughest teams in Western New York, along with competitive East Aurora and Iroquois squads.
“This league is always a challenge, but we’d like to be more competitive” Archabald said. “We’d like to catch some teams off guard and steal a game or two.”
Among the players working the hardest on their games are Molly Neureuter and Chelsea Jackson, a pair of all-league second team selections last year, and Taylor Mitchell and Mariah Gaul. All four are members of a strong junior class.
Neureuter and Jackson should be the team’s top offensive threats, while the versatile Mitchell will be used as more of a defensive specialist and probably will won’t leave the field, according to Archabald. Adding to the attack will be Gaul, a returning starter.
The team’s lone seniors, all of whom will be counted on for leadership and be part of the starting lineup, include Jessica Mattie and Kat Villar in the midfield and Caylee Zydell on defense.
A number of players making the jump from the junior varsity are also expected to help the cause this year.
Junior Melanie Raduluff should start on attack, while eighth grader Brittany Nowak could see a lot of time on the field in aiding the offense. Adding depth to the midfield will be junior Cora Leigh Dobson and freshman Angela Cala.
The defense will be filled out by juniors Sarah Woods and Claire Cappellino, along with JV call-ups Hannah Mardino and Amanda Krouse, who could also split time in goal with field hockey netminder Mikaela Nelson. Also looking to contribute on both ends of the field is junior Alexa Salisbury.
While players may feel an increased level of confidence on the field that comes with experience, so will the teams’ head coach. Archabald, a former men’s lacrosse player, took last year to adjust to the game at the female level.
He learned many nuances of the game and familiarized himself with the rules, along with realizing that what he was learning as a coach of a girls team was not far off what he already knew.
“I tried too much to modify my strategy to fit the girls game,” Archabald said. “What I’ve been finding is that they’re actually moving more toward the men’s game with the philosophy and the way the game is played. So going back to the way I knew may help and crossover to more success as a team.”
Eden already began the season with a win — defeating Sweet Home 15-9 on March 28 in a non-league contest. After the break, the Raiders will begin Class C play hosting East Aurora on April 9.