Not many teams can lose a Division I player and still keep on rolling.
However, Orchard Park boys lacrosse has proven for more than a decade that it is not your typical team.
OP still has a deep run in the state playoffs targeted despite losing Providence-bound attackman Austin Goltz, who tore ligaments in his knee during practice about two weeks ago.
“We’ve been playing very well. I’ve been very impressed,” said OP coach Gene Tundo, who surpassed the 500-win mark earlier this year. “Our game against Pittsford, we played awesome. We just need to keep getting challenged and keep getting better.
“[We can go deep in the playoffs] if we stay healthy. We lost Goltzy and we lost one of our best longstick middies [senior Joe Dragonette].”
The Quakers are 9-1 with their only loss on April 11 to Section V (Rochester-area) power Penfield. OP recorded a major victory by handing another Section V power, Pittsford, its only loss on April 19.
“I think our defense is very good, and when you win faceoffs, everything falls into place,” said Tundo, citing the excellent faceoff work by All-Western New York football first-teamer Mitch Wilson. “I think that this team is very good if they stay unselfish and keep moving the ball on offense – and just keep getting better on defense. Defensively we have played very well. I think we can go far.”
Tundo said this year’s core is made up of eight sophomores who were brought up three years ago.
“Now it’s their turn,” he said. “[Midfielder] Spencer Cromwell is getting better all the time, [midfielder] Tim Wagner, [attackman] Ralph Pagliei. [Attackman] John Januszkiewicz is kind of the point guard to our team, [goalie] Taylor Ferrino has been playing really well.
“I’m happiest with our defense most of all. If we can limit teams … we’ll be tough to beat.”
However, Tundo is wary of its next two opponents. OP plays at Clarence on Wednesday and hosts Frontier Monday. OP beat Clarence, 18-10, and Frontier, 15-5, the first time around last month.
“I think the top three teams in every section can all beat each other,” Tundo said. “You’ve got us, Frontier and Clarence – you’ve got Pittsford, Fairport, Penfield [in Section V]. Any of those teams could win.”
Timon turns heads
Even after its loss at St. Joe’s last Monday, Bishop Timon-St. Jude received 10 votes in the April 30 Nike/US Lacrosse High School Boys’ Lacrosse Top 25 poll. Timon thought it had won the game in the second overtime, but play continued and St. Joe’s scored on the ensuing fast break for a 13-12 landmark victory. Timon earned national attention after defeating Ithaca, which is ranked eighth in the poll, on the Saturday prior to the St. Joe’s loss (April 27). Timon also opened the season with a victory against Florida power Saint Andrew’s (currently 20-4) and owns a victory over Hamburg.
Building at St. Joe’s
Despite losing at St. Francis on Monday, St. Joe’s is in the midst of arguably its best lacrosse season ever.
Tenth-year coach Peter Hudecki has the Marauders 9-4, including not only the Timon win but victories over Frontier and Albany’s Christian Brothers Academy.
St. Joe’s other losses have come to heavyweights like Hill Academy (Ont.), Pittsford of Section V and CBA of Syracuse (by a goal in the final minute on Sunday).
Hudecki has overseen a program that overhauled its coaching staff in recent years, as well as added a second JV squad, something that is believed to be unique to St. Joe’s in Western New York.
St. Joe’s Maroon is the primary JV team, with the White a mostly-freshman based team. Each team has 24 players and plays a full 16-game schedule.
The Maroon squad was undefeated before a loss to Hamburg; meanwhile the White team has won its fourth game this year after recent years in which it went winless. The teams help provide the depth that the better lacrosse teams will rely on, notably in multiple midfield lines. “They keep us in reload mode,” Hudecki said of the JV teams.
Hudecki lauded his coaching staff, which includes John Curry, Mike Nirelli, JJ Mokan and Dave Decirce on the varsity level and James Vitale, Nate Hoak, Chris Rehbaum and Pat Goodwin on the JV level, along with a number of volunteers, including alumni of the program.
The Marauders have a mix of athletes whose No. 1 sport is lacrosse, but also multi-sport athletes who are committed to the program.
“During hockey’s Federation championship year, we still had guys coming to workouts during hockey season,” said Hudecki. “It’s just a great group of guys. For the last four years, we knew ‘this is our group right here.’”
It’s a group that includes dangerous scoring threats Andrew Bond and Michael Hubert on attack, midfielder Jackson Balkin, top faceoff man Andrew Pawenski, and defensemen James Deakin, Tom Adolf and Jonathan Boorady.
Games to watch
Here is a sampling of some terrific matchups as the regular season winds down.
Today: Two big Class C games at 5 p.m. have Silver Creek at Akron and East Aurora at Lake Shore.
Wednesday: St. Joe’s goes for a rivalry sweep when it hosts Canisius at 5; St. Francis goes for another upset at Timon at 7 and Orchard Park is at Clarence at 7.
Thursday: Always a good rivalry game has Williamsville North at Williamsville East.
Friday: Hamburg, which lost senior standout and University of Maryland-Baltimore County recruit Max Maxwell to injury, heads to Section V Class C superpower Penn Yan at 7 p.m.
Saturday: An annual entertaining nonleaguer has Niagara-Wheatfield at Silver Creek.
Monday: Outstanding nonleaguer with Class A power Clarence hosting currently undefeated Class C leader Akron at Clarence.
May 15: In a long-awaited rematch, St. Joe’s plays Bishop Timon-St. Jude on Timon’s Fitzpatrick Field on Tifft Street at 7 p.m. Another fine matchup has neighbors facing off as Frontier plays at Hamburg.
May 16: Two excellent late-season nonleaguers have Orchard Park at Niagara-Wheatfield and Silver Creek playing at Frontier.
May 17: In a fine nonleague matchup that high school fans would love to see in football, St. Joe’s will play at Orchard Park at 5 p.m. Another good game that day has Clarence heading to the Finger Lakes to take on Penn Yan.
May 18-19: Bishop Timon-St. Jude is part of a outstanding field at the North American Lacrosse Invitational hosted by Birmingham (Mich.) Brother Rice.
May 17: Section VI play-in round (if necessary)
May 21: Monsignor Martin semifinals and Section VI quarterfinals
May 23: Section VI semifinals
May 28: Section VI championships at All High Stadium (Class B-3:30, C-5:30, A-8 p.m.); Monsignor Martin championship at TBA
June 1: Far West Regionals at St. John Fisher, Pittsford (Class B-1, C-3:30, A-6 p.m.)
June 3: State Catholic championships at St. Anthony’s, L.I.
June 5: State semifinals at St. John Fisher, Pittsford (Class B-3:30, C-5:30, A-8 p.m.)
June 8: State championships at St. John Fisher, Pittsford (Class B-11 a.m., C-1:30, A-4 p.m.)
Class A: 1, XI-Ward Melville; 5, Orchard Park; 13, St. Joe’s; 16, Bishop Timon-St. Jude. Honorable mention: Canisius, Frontier.
Class B: 1, II-Niskayuna; 10, Hamburg. HM: Niagara-Wheatfield, Williamsville North.
Class C: 1, XI-Shoreham-Wading River; 7, Akron; 9, East Aurora; 11, Silver Creek. HM: Lake Shore, Salamanca.