SALAMANCA — Following a sectional championship season, while much of the roster has turned over, the Salamanca boys lacrosse team has picked up near where it let off.
Last season the Warriors finished the year 11-2 with a 16-11 win over Eden in the Section 6 Class D championship. The ‘21 Warriors’ star player, Amos Whitcomb, graduated off to a college career in Albany. But Salamanca looked ready for the new challenge of 2022, starting 4-1 through last week.
Coach Jamie Pierce and staff had extremely strong numbers to work with this year, but some important roles to fill to build another contender.
“To start this 2022 season, we have our most number of players rostered in recent history,” Pierce said. “Thirty players have committed after the graduation of 11 seniors, and of those lost to graduation from the 2021 sectional champions were eight regular starters, which included our top two offensive threats and all of the defense/goalie units.
“So these departures have created many opportunities for some kids to play any role that helps the team. Again, the most important position of Goalie is the biggest unknown, as the long pole defense positions. We are currently having open competitions during practice and games to establish any true defensive consistency.”
Pierce said he only has “four or five” players with significant varsity game experience, one being senior captain Austin Maybee, who played just a few games before a season-ending injury in ‘21. Fellow returning veterans include sophomore Tayoni Galante, juniors Kelvin George and Jesse Stahlman and senior co-captain Tre Turner.
Pierce noted Mannox Jamieson, Brandon John, Maddox Isaac, Logan Armstrong, Xavier Peters and Shawn Pierce are all additions looking to make a big impact on the team.
“(They) should provide a very balanced attack and midfield corps group which can compete with the best offenses in the area,” he said.
“The early season defensive strategy is to help assist all these young teammates who have less experience but are willing to learn and grow from their own mistakes as well as others. I understand we will have some growing pains and occasional bad days due to our youth. By season’s end, I expect big contributions from Camden Farmer, Eion Quigley, Lehman Brown, Takota Armstrong and others.”
Last week, Salamanca beat Wilson (20-5), Bath Haverling (22-21) and Depew (17-7) for a three-game win streak headed into spring break.
Turner (25 goals, 11 assists) and Maybee (22 goals, 7 assists), both primary attack players for the Warriors, are leaders up top and big goal producers, along with Galante (12 goals, 12 assists). Jamieson (10 goals, 16 assists) is the main face-off midfielder, while junior Jesse Stahlman has been a top defender as a long stick middle, collecting ground balls and taking big defensive assignments on the opposition’s top players.
Even with all these fresh faces to the varsity level, Pierce sees a benefit to last year’s postseason run.
“Success builds success,” he said. “We have a winning modified program year after year which helps fill the gaps due to graduation. This group of student athletes is no different in sharing that work ethic, love and passion for the game.
“We are very confident to continue where we left off last June 2021. We obviously don’t need to be motivated. These boys are plenty confident in our abilities to achieving the goal of first back to back sectional lacrosse champions in school history. We are not running from competition either as we are playing a challenging non-league regular season schedule to help prepare us for the upcoming Class D playoffs and beyond.”
That kind of success also puts a target on the winners’ back, something the Warriors are prepared for.
“As defending champions, we expect to have every opponent’s best effort going forward,” Pierce said. “However, I believe we have the talent to compete and advance to the regionals just as the boys basketball team accomplished. This group of lacrosse players wants to enjoy and share that same experience as the basketball team’s historical season and final four postseason banner.”
Pierce wants to implement a versatile “hybrid” style of play, so the Warriors can play slow, possession-based lacrosse or a fast break game.
“There is no shot clock in this sport and with the depth we have on the offensive end, I don’t see any issue with getting up and down the field or slowing it down to gain any advantage we can,” Pierce said. “The majority of teams only run about 10-12 kids deep with limited substitutions. I am the complete opposite, I have the luxury of going 15-20 deep if necessary.”
The Warriors had nine practice days before their first game and limited time outside due to poor weather, leading to indoor practices, conditioning and film sessions.
“We always begin with the basic lacrosse fundamentals and lead into game settings,” Pierce said. “When we were able to get out on the home turf and simulate some game conditions, even though I recognized the body language as we were the only spring sport practicing or scrimmaging outdoors on some days, it was going to benefit the early game preparations. We had no choice (but) to get organized and ready for play.”