March 30, 2014 at 1:19 PM
WEST ORANGE, NJ - West Orange High School is looking to turn things around this year, and they are already making it happen.
After a double coaching change before the season started, West Orange Boys Lacrosse has high hopes for their upcoming season. Mike Velez, former assistant coach, has taken over as head coach. When Coach Rob McOmish resigned after his first season, the district hired Dan Lederer, who came with college coaching experience. Lederer, who works in a different school district, was offered a position as an Assistant Principal and had to resign as head coach before the new season even started.
While a coaching toss-up can be difficult on player morale and confidence, the West Orange High School boys have turned it into a positive, “ushering in a new culture of WO LAX”. The young team has high hopes for the season. “This season a main focus of ours is to leave it all out on the field. Wins and losses aren't necessarily our main concern because we know if we play hard and smart and listen to our coaches, our record will reflect that,” says sophomore starting goalie Brian Crann.
Said junior Nick Santa Cruz, "Coach Velez is trying to better our team as a whole and change the mentality." He continued, "Our team is very athletic, which is a huge strength."
Lacrosse, like Hockey, are very young programs at the high school. West Orange is only beginning to create feeder programs that provide training and play for kids in grades 2-8. Other towns have had these programs in place for decades.
Coach Velez has instilled a game plan unlike that of last year. Last year the offense relied heavily on individual players making big plays to score, while the defense often seemed like they had too much to handle when teams would pick them apart with expert passing. Senior starter Chris Hanley said, “changing the culture of West Orange lacrosse is going to start with a group of kids who want to play for the man next to him.”
The strategy practiced in this off-season to be implemented throughout the year has come directly from the coaches, says Crann. “Coach has our offense really playing as a team, not getting only isolation goals with one player, but working the ball around and scoring goals like you see at higher levels of lacrosse. On the defensive side, we are becoming smarter players and more vocal thanks to the coaches”.
The team looks to be strong, returning many crucial starting players from last year including senior Chris Hanley, junior Joe Casalino, junior Alex Elliot, sophomore Marshall Lipsey, and arguably last year’s MVP, sophomore goalie Brian Crann. Freshman Andrew DiPalma, an offensive-minded player with years of club experience, has already gained attention with important plays.
Commenting on last year’s two-win season, Hanley said, “it's a new season and we have a clean slate. Our team is filled with athletes and a coaching staff that pushes us in the right direction. Execution will be key to this year.”
Although the team had a sub-par season last year, the talent and hard work that the West Orange Lacrosse team has can lead them to a successful 2014 season.
In fact, after a first-game loss to Morris Hills on Mach 26, the team traveled to North Brunswick on March 29 and won 6-5, with an assist by Elliott after the final faceoff and a goal by Lipsey in the last five seconds of the game. Lipsey scored three goals while goals by Kosi Amafuena, Chris Hanley, Gene Charles, and Crann's 11 saves rounded out the victory.
The West Orange High School Boys Lacrosse team will host Roxbury High School at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, April 1.