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BOYS LACROSSE PREVIEW: Team-by-team capsules
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Jake Stanford and the Lambert Longhorns' boys lacrosse team hope to get back to the state finals for the fifth straight time. - photo by Micah Green

FORSYTH CENTRAL

Coach: Joshua Smith, first season.

Last season: 2-15, 0-11 Area 3-AAAAA-A.

Key returners: D Ryan Fitzpatrick, sr.

Key newcomers: none

Outlook: The Bulldogs didn’t have a lot to cheer about in 2014 after winning only two games. Unfortunately, 2015 may not be much better. Central will be without their offensive leader Logan Young (30 goals, eight assists, 38 ground balls) who has since graduated, and there doesn’t appear to be anyone on their roster who can take his place. At least not at this moment, but things can change. It will be up to the young Bulldogs to rise up and take on the challenge. Who will step up and become the man to lead the Bulldogs this season? A glimmer of hope for Central is All-County senior defensemen Ryan Fitzpatrick (28 ground balls). It’s a tough task, but Fitzpatrick is going to have to whip the Bulldogs defense into shape in a hurry because it looks like Central could struggle to score goals this season.

LAMBERT

Coach: Josh Sagel, fifth season.

Last season: 17-5, 7-1 Area 3-AAAAAA, lost in Class AAAAAA championship.

Key returners: MF Trey Arnold, jr.; D Brady Berman, jr.; GK Garret Gomez, sr.; D Justyn Jean-Felix, jr.; D Chris Price, jr.; A Hunter Shepherd, sr.; MF Jake Stanford, sr.

Key newcomers: MF Matt O'Rourk, jr.

Outlook: Lambert has a state championship on its mind this season after losing 6-5 to Roswell in last year’s Class AAAAAA finals. The Longhorns will be without Forsyth County Player of the Year and All-American attackman Sean Carruthers (56 goals, 31 assists) and first team all-area attackman Spencer Wilson (48 goals, 26 assists) who will now be playing at Mercer and Furman, respectively. Normally losing players of this caliber would be a huge blow to a program, but Lambert has 23 returning lettermen to help fill the voids left by Carruthers and Wilson. “We return a lot of experienced depth,” coach Josh Sagel said. “Having so many returning players, we hope to fill the voids in both leadership and scoring.” Three-year letter winner senior attackman Hunter Shepard, along with All-County midfielder and Delaware signee Jake Stanford (21 goals, 26 assists) and All-County and Robert Morris commit junior face-off specialist Trey Arnold (19 goals, won 74 percent of face-offs) look to lead the Longhorns attack. On defense, Lambert will rely on a trio of junior defensemen. Mercer commits Justyn Jean-Felix and Brandy Berman and High Point commit Chris Price are expected to pick up where second-team all-state defensemen Dillon Alexander and first-team all-area and UMBC signee Logan Wood left off. This is a task easier said than done, but Lambert prepares its player to step-in when their number is called. Adjustments on defense should be made easier with All-American and Furman signee senior goalkeeper Garret Gomez providing the last line of defense for the Longhorns. “With the region now including last year's Class AAAAA champion Northview as well as Centennial, we have the last two state title winners in our area,” Sagel said. “Not to mention the always tough Johns Creek and West Forsyth. Getting a playoff berth will be a lot of work. Couple the difficult region schedule with a 6-5 loss in the title game and this year will be a true test for us.”

NORTH FORSYTH

Coach: Don Hilton, second season.

Last season: 4-14, 1-7 Area 3-AAAAAA.

Key returners: MF Chase Chapman, so.; MF Jack Connaughton, sr.; MF Justin Gibson, sr.; A Patrick Scales, sr.

Key newcomers: GK Jacob Day, so.

Outlook: North enters the 2015 season with hopes of having a winning season for the first time since 2011. They will lean on a strong midfield group led by All-County senior Justin Gibson (13 goals, 59 ground balls, 26 caused turnovers). Gibson is a versatile player and may be utilized some as a defenseman to help shore up a Raiders unit that allowed over 16 goals a game last season. Coach Don Hilton is looking to play better team defense. “This team is a tighter cohesive unit than in previous years,” Hilton said. “They will be playing a much tighter team defense.” Sophomore goalkeeper Jacob Day will be looked upon to provide some stability in net. The Raiders success this season keys on the ability to reduce scoring chances for the opponent.

PINECREST ACADEMY

Coach: Patrick Aiello, first season.

Last season: 7-3-1 in a JV schedule.

Key returners: A Jack Binkley, so.; A Adam Guard, sr.; MF Mitchell Ojeda, jr.; GK Garrsion Winter, so.

Key newcomers: none

Outlook: Excitement is brewing at Pinecrest as this is the first year the Paladins will place a varsity team on the lacrosse field. The pieces for success have been put in place for the Paladins with sophomore attackman Jack Binkley and junior midfielder Mitchell Ojeda leading the way. Binkley led the Pinecrest JV team in points last season while Ojeda led the team in points from the midfielder position. Sophomore goalkeeper Garrison Winter is looking to build off of a strong freshman campaign. It will certainly be an adjustment for the Paladins to adapt to the speed and level of competition at the varsity level. Another challenge for Pinecrest will be the lack of senior leadership. With only two seniors on the team, senior attackman Adam Guard is expected to play a key leadership role on and off the field. A positive for the Paladins, however, is their great field IQ and high level of team dedication. “The foundation for the lacrosse program has been laid out,” coach Patrick Aiello said. “Now it’s time to build the structure and grow the Pinecrest program.”

SOUTH FORSYTH

Coach: John Garrish, third season.

Last season: 8-9.

Key returners: MF Matt D’Amico, sr.; GK Ike Forrester, jr.; D Cooper Lyon, sr.

Key newcomers: none

Outlook: South is entering the 2015 season with only four seniors on the squad. Two-year captain Mason Mueller (55 goals, 17 assists) graduated and so did All-County midfielder Kadri Hearns (14 goals, 45 ground balls, 30 caused turnovers). Hearns is now playing at Randolph College. In their place is All-County senior midfielder Matt D’Amico (23 goals, 14 assists, 112 ground balls). It will be near impossible for D’Amico to replace the offensive output of both Hearns and Mueller, but he will have to do his best as he is not expected to have much help from a very young War Eagle team. Defense is another story for South. Expect the War Eagles to field a strong defensive unit led by senior defensemen Cooper Lyon and backed up by All-County junior goalkeeper Ike Forrester (153 saves, .520 save percentage). South’s season is going to rely on the development of their underclassmen. “How quickly we mature will dictate how our season goes,” coach John Garrish said.

WEST FORSYTH

Coach: John Laden, third season.

Last season: 8-10

Key returners: MF/D Reed Bagwell, jr.; A Brooks Barber, jr.; A Justin Kabo, jr.; A James Martelli, so.; D Nick Reiner, sr.; A Miller Warrington, sr.

Key newcomers: D Ciaran Hartley, jr.

Outlook: The Wolverines will look to rebound from an 8-10 season and get back to the form that helped them go 11-5 in 2013. The Wolverines are led by All-County junior attacker Justin Kabo (27 goals, 13 assists) and senior midfielder/defensemen Reed Bagwell, who has committed to Jacksonville. West is counting on some key newcomers like junior defensemen Ciaran Hartley to step in and contribute. The Wolverines have a lot of depth across the field this season. Attackers Brooks Barber, James Martelli and Miller Washington, along with Kabo, will look to light up the scoreboard for the Wolverines. The only problem with so much depth is finding a role for every player and getting them to buy into it. “The area we must improve upon the most is our ability to come together as a team,” coach John Laden said. “We are looking to get better with each practice and game as the season moves forward.”