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Senior captain Sean Cole and the Valley Regional boys’ lacrosse squad posted a record of 8-9 record and earned a Class S State Tournament berth this spring. Cole supplied 41 goals and 40 assists for the Warriors on the campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain goalie Dylan LaPlace kept the Warriors in games with is play in net and finished with a .622 save percentage for the year. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Charlie Haughton proved a staunch defensive presence for the Warriors in 2019 and was also a vocal leader in the backfield. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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The Valley Regional boys’ lacrosse team put together another solid season in 2019. The Warriors turned in an 8-9 record overall that included a berth in the Class S State Tournament. In Head Coach Mike Orfao’s first year at the helm, Valley saw a good mix of steady veteran presence from its senior along with plenty of young talent. That concoction of contributors resulted in a respectable campaign for the Warriors this year.
Valley had a bit of a streaky season, dropping two games out of the gate, but then rattling off five wins in a row. The Warriors then went on a three game losing streak, followed by a three game winning streak that earned them a trip to states 12 games into a 16-game schedule. Valley dropped its next three games, before taking the last contest of the regular season against Suffield. After that, the Warriors headed to states as the No. 18 seed and lost a 12-5 road game in the qualifying round against No. 15 seed, East Catholic.
Coach Orfao believed that overall Valley’s season proved a big step in the right direction given the shake-up at the top. The Warriors saw the departure of longtime coach George Hudson this year, and Orfao took up the mantle of head coach just a year after he joined the program as an assistant in 2018. Coach Orfao felt proud of the way his athletes represented their school.
“The season was successful in many ways. The boys did a great job transitioning from the change over in coaches,” Orfao said. “When they bought into the scheme on defense and offense they were playing at their best, and it was extremely enjoyable to watch. I think this season was a good way to start a foundation of the lacrosse culture at Valley.”
Helping to set the standard for that culture were Valley’s senior captains in Sean Cole, Charlie Haughton, and Dylan LaPlace. Cole did an outstanding job distributing on offense with 40 assists to go along with 41 goals on the year too. Haughton earned Valley’s Defensive Player of the Year Award and directed traffic near the net to get the defense in position to help limit the amount of save attempts for LaPlace in goal. Still, when opposition got through the defense, LaPlace was more than up to the task of stopping shots with a .622 save percentage on the season, and he earned the Warriors’ Most Valuable Player Award this season.
“Sean is a pretty versatile player for us. He moves the ball well and can score when we need it,” said Orfao. “Charlie was our leader in the backfield. He was a strong voice in the backfield and always made sure that everyone knew the scheme. Dylan was definitely an accomplished stopper in front of the net. He does everything he can to make the big save.”
Junior Cam Frazier also offered a strong veteran presence. The offensive stalwart showed some major toughness in making the best of nagging injury. Frazier scored 29 goals to go with 16 assists for the Warriors.
“Can Fraizer is a player who can take over a game and is extremely difficult to cover, while he was battling through a rib injury this year,” said Orfao. “Teams in the second half of the season altered their defensive schemes to stop him, and he still made a valuable impact.”
Valley also received huge contributions from some of its younger athletes this year. Particularly freshman Duncan Rider who set the school’s record for most points scored as a freshman with 86. He earned Valley’s Offensive Player of the Year Award with 60 goals and 26 assists, and he was joined by fellow freshman Cooper Strecker (3 goals, 12 assists) and sophomore Keenan Pindar (11 goals, 10 assists) as a young trio that made a big impact.
“Duncan, Cooper, and Keenan are going to play a huge role in our success for next season,” said Orfao. “These guys consistently show the heart and drive to put everything on the line for their team. They are always doing what they can to put their team in the best position to win.”
Taking home Valley’s Warriors Awards this year for their hard-nosed play were Strecker on offense and senior Justin Robida for the defense. Valley teams have a tradition of recognizing the grit and toughness that Strecker and Robida exemplified this season.
Coach Orfao thought that his team as a whole showed that same kind of gumption in one contest in particular; when Valley scored a 8-7 overtime win against Haddam-Killingworth early in the year. The Warriors were down late in the game but climbed back in to force the extra period and ultimately came away with the victory.
“That first game against Haddam-Killingworth was our hardest fought battle,” said Coach Orfao. “Being down by two with four minutes to go and then tying it up with seconds left on the clock was huge. The boys showed a lot of heart and determination to pull off that win.”
Looking to the future, the Warriors have plenty of young talent to make a difference on the field for years to come. Coach Orfao is glad to have his first season at the helm under his belt and is excited to get back onto the field with his squad next spring to see what they can accomplish together.
“I think this was a solid first year. I’m very proud on how my team performed and very encouraged by the future of the team,” said Orfao. “We have a lot of solid younger players that will have an opportunity to play a big role in a successful season. Looking forward to next year and seeing what magic we can create.”
From the Sidelines
The Valley Regional boys’ lacrosse team’s varsity roster featured 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 season was Mike Orfao’s first year as the Warriors’ head coach and his assistant coach was Philip Simshauser.
Valley’s victories this season came against Cromwell (23-7 and 15-6), Old Saybrook (13-0 and 16-1), Old Lyme (13-7), Haddam-Killingworth (8-7), Ellington (13-9), and Suffield (11-3).
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