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Lacrosse Preview 2014: Younger Hamburg boys lacrosse not about to change expectations

Young talent — Sophomore Evan Hollfelder will be part of a young contingent of players trying to keep Hamburg on top of Section VI Class B. Photo by Michael Petro.
With so many new faces filling key roles, one might think it’s time for the Hamburg boys lacrosse team to reassess its annual goals for the season.

Not these Bulldogs, who will not be scaling back their hope to repeat as sectional champions and continue to make some noise at the state level.

After repeating as Class B champions — it has only not won the title once in the past seven years, Hamburg took another big step for the program with a trip to the state semifinal. The Bulldogs won a Far West Regional for the second time in program history.

Graduation over the past two seasons has taken a tole on the team, though, with 29 players lost from those combined senior classes.

Still, Hamburg is not deterred from thinking big. As 10th-year Hamburg coach Jerry Severino puts it, the goals are always the same for the program.

Senior captain and defensive specialist Joe Wittmeyer said that while this team may not be as skilled or as big number-wise, that doesn’t count for the determination of a group trying to uphold a tradition.

“We’re approaching 2014 with the same high expectations, but a different strategy,” Severino said. “We believe success will result from efficient execution from our veterans, as well as strong support from the next group of Hamburg lacrosse athletes. I’m pleased to see that these boys are determined to do the work needed to achieve the result we expect.”

Senior Lucas Shafer, a three-year starter and captain in 2014, who’s moved from attack to midfield, realizes it will take an even greater effort this year to reach those goals, but he sees a group that is willing to work.

The Lake Erie College-bound Shafer knows one of the reasons last season’s team achieved so much was that it was a group of players that had been together for so many years. This year’s team is still developing chemistry.

“We think we have to work harder than most of the Hamburg teams in the past,” said Shafer, a left-handed sniper, who was one of the team’s top scorers last season. “Last year, we had a group that had been playing together since they were 6-years-old and with them leaving, it is pretty big. Everyone here hasn’t been playing with one another that long, so you have to work harder to get communication down.”

Joining Shafer in the midfield will be Canisius College-bound Matt Borgese and sophomore second-year starter Evan Hollfelder. Severino sees Shafer giving opponents matchup issues and the talented Borgese and Hollfelder benefiting from it.

Joe Wittmeyer, a short stick middie, will contribute to a defense that he said has looked very solid so far in the preseason. He’ll be joined by versatile sophomore Brendan Ryan at short stick, while taking on the long pole leadership roles on the back end will be seniors Jake Wittmeyer and Griffin Ryan. Sophomores Will Agate and Brennan English have also shown off tremendous games, Severino said. In net will be junior Jordan Kuss, who got the experience of starting for last season’s state semifinalist team.

Up front on attack, Hamburg will look to senior Sam Cilano, who steps into a bigger role, and junior Jim Duffy, a returning starter. Junior right-hander Garrett Knoll will step into the rotation and freshman Jason Chiodo continues to “demonstrate flashes of brilliance,” according to Severino.

The midfield could be the deepest group on the team, as juniors Shawn Feuerstein, Evan Wright, Andrew Rettig and Colin Mills have all showed promise. Senior Rob Miller and junior Mark Myles are expected to compete for playing time at long stick middie, while Ryan Nemec and Zach Sortisio add depth to the defensive midfield. Completing the roster are junior middies Drew Loretto and Connor Smail and backup goalie Nick Fadeley.

“The nucleus of this year’s team is solid,” said Severino, who noted that senior Vince Sardo, who plans to play at Hilbert, and junior Mitchell Gomolka are expected to miss the entire season. “Our task is to develop depth from the athletes who will be critical second-line guys. It will take much of the season to get there, but I believe we will.”

Severino noted that winning Class B is always a challenge and that will especially ring true this season, as the competition around the Bulldogs has grown more fierce. “This year there happen to be several B teams that are very good,” noted Severino, who’s being assisted by Mark Muskopf, Caleb Severino and Pat DiMatteo. “The target on our backs will motivate us to work hard.”

Hamburg was slated to open the season March 26 against Niagara Wheatfield in a rematch of the past three Class B title games. Hamburg will then host West Seneca West on Saturday, March 29. The Bulldogs will also continue to raise money for the fight against cancer, culminating in the May 16 Coaches vs. Cancer game against rival Frontier at Hamburg.

“We still have a lot of veterans coming back and younger guys contributing,” said Shafer. “We’re still looking at winning another sectional championship. We’ve been winning championships for a while and we aim to win another one.”

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