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Senior captain goalie Dylan LaPlace and the Valley Regional boys’ lacrosse team evened their record at 2-2 after notching wins against Cromwell and Old Saybrook last week. LaPlace recorded a shutout in net during a 13-0 road win against Old Saybrook on April 11. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain attacker Sean Cole and the Warriors scored a big 23-7 home win over Cromwell on April 9. Cole supplied three goals and four assists in the victory. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain defender Charlie Haughton is an invaluable presence for the Warriors in the backfield who constantly puts himself in the way of opposing offenses. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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The Valley Regional boys’ lacrosse team earned its first two victories with new Head Coach Mike Orfao by defeating both Cromwell and Old Saybrook in lopsided fashion last week. The Warriors are coming off a season that saw the squad reach the Shoreline Conference final for the second year in row. With a club that features a nice mix of veteran experience and fresh talent, Valley is in prime position to have another great campaign in 2019.
Heading into this year, Coach Orfao set the expectation for the Warriors to reclaim the Shoreline Conference title that they won in 2017. After serving as an assistant coach last season, Orfao is taking the helm following the departure of former coach George Hudson, who is now at Old Lyme. Valley will be looking to gain a measure of revenge against Old Lyme after losing to the Wildcats in last year’s conference final.
“Expectation No. 1 is win the Shorelines. We got to the championship last year and lost by a late goal,” said Orfao. “We have all the pieces to be Shoreline champs. We have pieces to make it work. We just have to make sure the pieces are all moving in the right direction.”
After taking two defeats to start the season, the Warriors picked it up by posting blowout wins over Cromwell and Old Saybrook in last week’s action. Valley routed Cromwell by the score of 23-7 in a home game on April 9. Two days later, the Warriors notched a 13-0 shutout at Old Saybrook to draw even at 2-2 this spring.
Coach Orfao felt encouraged that his team corrected some of the mistakes it made during the first week of play in its two recent victories.
“The first week, we had problems with the fundamentals, and we lost some close games. Moving forward, I think we have the ability to beat any team in the Shorelines. When we concentrate on the little things, the big things happen from that,” Orfao said. “This week was a confidence builder, especially going up against Old Lyme and H-K next week. It showed me what our team can be when we’re going right.”
Valley moved the ball around well in its win against Cromwell and saw freshman attacker Duncan Rider turn in an excellent effort by scoring 10 goals with one assist. Fellow attackers, senior captain Sean Cole and senior Ricky Persico, were able to get the ball to Rider for wide-open shots throughout the game. Cole had three goals with four assists, and Persico netted three goals to go with seven assists for the Warriors.
“We moved the ball efficiently. We capitalized on easy shots right on the crease. We moved efficiently, and we weren’t complacent. We kept moving with and without the ball, and that’s our claim to fame if our offense is working the right way,” Orfao said. “Duncan Rider was doing a great job of getting in the right positions, and Sean Cole and Ricky Persico were doing a great job of getting him the ball in the right place.”
One of the keys to Valley’s success is steady communication on the attack. Coach Orfao said that Cole helps Valley’s other forwards get into the right spots on the field.
“Sean’s a solid attacker as a senior captain,” said Orfao. “He’s got great field vision he commands the offense. He’s a great communicator.”
In the midfield, senior Cameron Frazier provided five goals and one assist, while senior Ryan Santos added a goal with an assist. Sophomore Keenan Pindar also scored a goal in the victory.
“Cameron Frazier and Keenan Pindar are our workhorses in the midfield. They are key focuses on defense and offense. They play both ends of the field,” Coach Orfao said. “Keenan, being just a sophomore, has a nose for the goal. He knows how to drive and dish, as well. This is Ryan Santos’s first year, and he’s picking up the game extremely fast.”
In the win versus Old Saybrook, the Warriors’ defense took center stage to help them get the shutout. Senior captain goalie Dylan LaPlace and senior captain defender Charlie Haughton always play a huge role in any game, but they were especially effective against the Rams. LaPlace only needed to make six saves because of Valley’s dominant defense.
“Charlie’s aggressive. He puts himself out on the limb to make the play. He understands what we’re looking for in defensive schemes and makes sure everyone gets to their spots,” said Orfao. “Dylan LaPlace is the backbone of our team. He’s made a lot of great saves already. He’s has the ability to calm down the defense.”
Cole scored five goals to go with four assists, and Rider tallied four goals and four helpers for Valley Regional. Persico (4 assists), Pindar (2 goals, 1 assist), and Frazier (2 goals) also contributed to the win.
Along with Valley’s stout defensive effort, Coach Orfao was pleased that the Warriors showed great poise on offense by taking a methodical approach when they had the lead in hand.
“We shut down their offense, and that led to our own offense. We retained possession,” Orfao said. “I’m glad to see we have the ability to get the ball on offense, slow it down, and work our plays.”
Looking ahead, Coach Orfao wants the Warriors to continue jelling as a unit as the campaign unfolds. Valley has already shown flashes of what it can accomplish this year. Now, it’s just a matter of getting on the field and giving a consistent effort.
“Sticking to the fundamentals is our key. If we’re moving the ball around well, we’re going to score. We’re in the process of growing up,” said Orfao. “This team has shown that they have the ability to beat anyone they go up against. I have high hopes for this team, and I hope they rise to occasion.”
From the Sidelines
The Valley Regional boys’ lacrosse team’s varsity roster includes senior captains Sean Cole, Charlie Haughton, and Dylan LaPlace; seniors Zachary Joyce, Ricky Persico, and Justin Robida; juniors William Burch, Cameron Frazier, Daniel Harris, and Callum Miller; sophomores Weston Belisle, Jackson Bisson, Thomas Burch, Tate Ingham, and Axel Johnson; and freshmen Will McLachlan, Duncan Rider, Benjamin Safran, Tucker Schultz, Cooper Strecker, Reece Whitney, and Ryan Wyrebek-Brasky.
Mike Orfao is his first season as the Warriors’ head coach. Philip Simshauser is an assistant coach for Valley Regional this year.
For the rest of the season, the Warriors will play home games versus Old Lyme, Haddam-Killingworth, Southington, North Branford, Old Saybrook, and Waterford. Valley’s away matchups will come against Morgan, Cromwell, Ellington, Old Lyme, Haddam-Killingworth, and Suffield.
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