By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Grafton – To some, achieving back-to-back Division III Central / West District championships and earning a berth as state finalists (2015, 2016) would be akin to making it to the “Promised Land”, and for the Grafton High School (GHS) boys’ varsity lacrosse team it’s a significant accomplishment and much to be proud of for sure. But coming so tantalizingly close to going the distance has left an after-taste that has this team electrified, hungry and looking for more, said ninth-year head coach Alan Rotatori, who previously held the same role for Newton South High School for 19 years.
“We’re definitely happy with what we’ve been doing the past two years and we’re pleased with the success of the program but we’re also pretty hungry too,” Rotatori admitted.” Is it a realistic goal that we win a state championship in the Division 3 tournament? I think so. We just haven’t been able to match that elite program and that’s what keeps us driving.
“We have to keep our composure the whole time. You can’t get caught up with what the score is and the level that your opponent is playing. We have to keep the integrity of what we’re trying to accomplish all the time.”
The Indians once more this year are off to a fast start at 3-1 following a 17-4 shellacking of border-rival and visiting Northbridge High on April 11. Jumpstarting the season with early victories is a momentum builder, according to senior co-captain Tom Nicalek.
“It’s important to get a fast start especially because we have tough games late in the season against St. John’s, Wachusett and others. Starting off successfully shows that we have good chemistry.
“Things are a little different from last year. There’s a different kind of personality with this group. We’re a bit more quiet this year than last year but once we get going with this team that has a lot of younger players and their confidence grows, I think we can be really good.”
“I don’t think we’re where we want to be just yet but we’re working hard in practice every day and coming together as a team,” added fellow senior co-captain Jack Fontana. “We lost a lot of seniors who were such a big part of our team last year. We’re still working out the kinks with the new guys but it’s definitely good.”
Playing at or at least near an elite level is nothing new for both the GHS boys and girls program, nor does it occur by accident. A commitment to the game of lacrosse at early ages is solid in the town and no one knows that more than Rotatori who spent 15 years serving as a volunteer youth coach.
“There’s a feeder system that’s been going about 18 years. What we have here is a very unique situation that doesn’t happen in all communities. Grafton has a unique way of presenting it and so the message here is about respecting the game. That means players trying to be the very best lacrosse player that they can be, trying to become the best teammate you can be and trying to be the best community member.”
A number of tough teams will greet these Indians both home and away and all know that the challenges of remaining competitive are omnipresent as the team moves forward. Adjusting on the fly is the best way to keep the team playing at the highest level possible.
“We pace ourselves because we know it’s a long season,” Rotatori said. “We make sure that we are addressing any weaknesses and issues that are at hand. We make adjustments all the time. We just want to be challenged. Being challenged is good for us because down the road when we’re being challenged in the Tournament we know we’ll be used to it and we can make adjustments in tight games that can make a difference going down the stretch.”
“Our defense is a very tight-knit unit that’s been together for four years and our offense is starting to click with our freshmen supporting us,” added senior co-captain Brendan Coates, fresh off an ice hockey state championship. “It would be great if we could go all the way this year.”
Members of the 2017 Grafton High boys varsity lacrosse team are attack Brendan Coates, Steve Rotatori, Tyler Hart, Jason Nixon, Matt Gilliatt, Jake McCue; midfielders Anthony D’Angelo, Ryan Tyldesley, Jimmy Donadio, Connor Driscoll, Rider Muhr, Ryan Warner, Johnny Malloy, Sean Tyldelsey, Jack Gurney; defense Jack Fontana, Dan Bartosiewicz, Tom Nicalek, Alec Cosseboom, Brian Recchia, John Turgeon, Ben Berube and goalkeepers Matt Nicalek and Brendan Murphy.