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Senior captain attacker Sean Cole and the Valley boys’ lacrosse team are headed back to the Class S State Tournament after grabbing a 16-1 home win over Old Saybrook on Senior Night on May 7. Cole scored five goals and had five assists in the win. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain goalie Dylan LaPlace has been a staunch presence in net for the Warriors this year. Last week, LaPlace made 12 saves when Valley clinched a spot in states by defeating Old Saybrook. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain defender Charlie Haughton is a vocal leader in the backfield for the Valley boys’ lacrosse squad. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior Keenan Pindar and the Warriors stand with a record of 7-7 entering the home stretch of the regular season. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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The Valley Regional boys’ lacrosse squad has battled its way to another appearance in the postseason. The Warriors secured their spot in the Class S State Tournament by earning a lopsided win versus Old Saybrook last week, while improving to 7-7 on the year. With two games left in the regular season, Head Coach Mike Orfao’s squad has its sights set on finishing strong and qualifying for the Shoreline Conference Tournament, as well.
On May 7, Valley posted a 16-1 home victory against Old Saybrook on Senior Night to qualify for states. The Warriors scored early and often to run away with the victory. Senior captain attacker Sean Cole scored five goals and provided five assists, while freshman attacker Duncan Rider had five goals and two assists for the Warriors. Junior Cameron Frazier posted three goals with three assists, and sophomore Keenan Pindar added a pair of goals. Senior Ryan Santos also scored a goal for the Warriors, who saw senior captain Dylan LaPlace make 12 saves in net.
“It was our Senior Night. All the seniors were hyped, and they were excited to play in front of the home crowd,” Coach Orfao said. “We did the little things. We retained possession. We executed to get multiple turnovers on our side of the field. We played a hard-nosed lacrosse game, and doing the right things turned into a win.”
One of the players honored on Senior Night was Cole, a senior captain who’s been logging major minutes for the Warriors all season. Coach Orfao said that Cole’s versatility is a huge asset on the field.
“Sean’s been a huge contributor, and he’s really stepped up the last couple of games. He’s playing both sides of the field, playing defense when we need to,” said Orfao. “We play some different schemes. In face-offs, when we need a ground ball, I’ll shift him up sometimes.”
Valley’s other senior captains have been holding things down on the defensive end this season. The combination of defender Charlie Haughton and goalkeeper LaPlace gives the Warriors a formidable force in the backfield. Haughton is an excellent communicator, and LaPlace is playing great as the last line of defense.
“Charlie’s definitely taking command of the defense. He lets them know the scheme and keeps everyone on task. He shows defenders where they can improve and what they need to do. He’s become more of a communicator as the season has gone on,” Coach Orfao said. “Dylan’s not a big yeller or anything, because Charlie has taken that role on defense, but he’s been doing everything he can to keep us in games. He’s playing lights out. Even when a goal gets in, he’s been making other big saves between the pipes.”
Two days after routing the Rams, Valley dropped a 5-4 decision at Old Lyme in a rematch of last year’s Shoreline Conference final. Cole scored a goal and had two assists, while Rider netted a pair of goals. Frazier had an assist, and freshman Cooper Strecker scored a goal.
Coach Orfao knew that the game would be close contest and could go either way. Orfao has seen flashes of what his team can achieve this season. He believes that if Valley can take care of the little things on the field, defeats like this one will move into the win column.
“Some of our losses this year have come down to executing things like getting ground balls and maintaining possession Those one- or two-point losses make a 7-7 team instead of an 11-3 team,” Orfao said. “We’ve showed brilliance on the field at times this year. It’s going to come down to playing from the start of the game to the end of the game full-force throughout for us to accomplish what we want to.”
Valley has received quality play from some of its younger plays, including the freshman Rider, who is putting together a huge rookie season. With his 73 points on the year, Rider is just nine points shy of the school record for the most points in a campaign for a freshman.
“Duncan comes from a family that knows how to play lacrosse. He knows what he’s doing out there,” said Orfao. “He’s just nine points off the record with two games left. If he plays his game and our offense plays our schemes, I could see him reaching that mark. He’s not going out of his way to just get points. He’s making the right plays out there, and the points are coming to him.”
On May 11, the Warriors took a 19-7 home loss against Class M opponent Waterford. Cole supplied two goals with three assists, while Rider scored a trio of goals and added a helper. Frazier scored two goals had one assist.
Despite taking a couple of defeats last week, Coach Orfao feels pleased that the Warriors notched that all-important victory to make the state tourney draw. Valley still has a chance to qualify for the Shoreline Conference Tournament if it takes care of business during the final week of the regular season.
“I’m definitely happy that we qualified for states,” Orfao said. “We have a big game against H-K that could determine whether we get into Shorelines or not. Our guys know that this game has more riding on it, but we just want to stay within our schemes and force their offense into the shots we want them to take. We know that we can be the best team in Shorelines as long as we’re doing everything right.”
• 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.
• This is Mike Orfao’s first season as Valley’s head coach. Philip Simshauser is the assistant coach for Valley Regional this year.
• The Warriors’ victories have come against Cromwell (23-7 and 15-6), Old Saybrook (13-0 and 16-1), Old Lyme (13-7), Haddam-Killingworth (8-7), and Ellington (13-9).
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