BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - As the Governor Livingston Highlanders boys lacrosse team gets set to take the field for the 2017 season, it’s no secret that much better results are expected this campaign. The Highlanders return much of their starting core from last season with the bulk of that core being seniors.

When asked about his outlook on the upcoming season, head coach Chet Parlavecchio couldn’t help but gush about what he’s seen so far from his veteran squad.

“The kids got after it hard all offseason and that’s carried over into the first couple of week of this season,” Parlavecchio, who’s entering his fourth season at the helm, said. “Our goals are to have a winning record, qualify for the state playoffs, and be among the top teams in the conference, and I certainly believe we have the players and talent to accomplish those goals.”

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The Highlanders are coming off a rough 2016 campaign in which they finished with just two victories. Some of the struggles had to do with team’s tough schedule and not performing well in crucial situations.

Parlavecchio said much of the focus this past offseason was about sticking to details and fundamentals, which are two areas his team struggled in during the 2016 season.

In addition to re-honing their fundamentals and being schooled on the importance of sticking to details, the Highlanders made the offseason strength and conditioning workouts a priority. Parlavecchio said every kid participated in the workouts and was involved in at least one other sport.

“This team has used last season as motivation during the offseason and in this preseason thusfar,” Parlavecchio said. “They’ve learned from their mistakes and I give them credit for never doubting the process.”

Much of the offseason success and overall positive vibe around the team can be attributed to the senior leadership, which Parlavechhio has raved about. The senior captain quartet of defenseman Doug Anderson, midfielder Will Nicholson, midfielder Jon Wong, and midfielder Billy Qu are hell-bent on capturing a playoff berth this season and their teammates have followed suit with that mindset.

The four, along with fellow senior Turner Haddad, have been great complements to the coaching staff in pushing themselves and their teammates to the limit in workouts and Parlavecchio said everyone has responded well. “Our senior leadership has carried us well up to this point and I expect that to continue,” Parlavecchio said.

What can’t be understated is the performance of those seniors on the field.

Anderson returns to lead a defense that Parlavecchio expects to be top-notch in the conference this season. After garnering first team all-conference honors as a sophomore, an injury robbed Anderson of much of his junior season. But Parlavecchio expects him to once again contend for all-conference honors in his senior campaign.

“Doug is our only four-year letter winner and is a very talented player overall,” Parlavecchio said. “He probably would’ve been first team again last season had he not gotten hurt.”

Nicholson is once again expected to be amongst the top players in his conference and along with Wong and Qu, will lead a talented group of midfielders.

“Will is a three-year varsity guy that has a good combination of speed and power,” Parlavecchio said. “Jon is another three-year guy that plays hard and with a lot of heart and passion for the game. He’s our leading returning scorer and is just a tough, hardnosed kid.

Qu is one of the rare athletes to transfer over from rival New Providence. Qu is in his second season with the program and through his hard work, has managed to leave a positive impression on his teammates.

“Billy flat-out worked himself into being one of our four captains,” Parlavecchio said. “He’s the quarterback of our defense and provides us with a physical presence in front of the net. “

Speaking of physical presences in front of the net, senior Marvin Steller will replace the graduated Emmanuel Kanellos at goalie. Despite having such big shoes to fill, Parlavecchio is confident Steller will get the job done.

Turner Haddad is another senior Parlavecchio is once again expecting big things from. A first-team all-conference selection a year ago, Haddad will join Anderson and Steller in anchoring the Governor Livingston defense.

“Turner is very good in that he has great hands and can really stretch the field,” Parlavecchio said. “Turner and our other defensemen are huge reasons why I expect our defense to be in good hands.”

Sophomore attackman Andrew Cahill, who started as a freshman, and senior midfielder Danny Kramer, who Parlavecchio said has been outstanding in the preseason, round out the key returnees for the Highlanders.

The Highlanders will once again compete in the Klank Division against the likes of Johnson, Morris Hills, and Verona among others.

But regardless of who the Highlanders face, Parlavecchio said his team just has to play.

“We already know what to do and how to do it,” Parlavecchio said. “We have a good defensive unit which I feel is our strong point and guys on offense that can contribute. Now it’s time to see how we really gel and how we compete and stack up against other teams.”

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Delicious Heights Highlander Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Delicious Heights, a family restaurant with three locations; Berkeley Heights, Bedminster and Basking Ridge, where it is part of the Basking Ridge County Club operating a public restaurant with outdoor dining, and acting as the banquet caterer, boasting a facility with panoramic views of the sprawling golf course. Visit our website, www.deliciousheights.com for weekly specials including Happy Hour specials from 3-6pm and daily featured dinner and lunch specials. Delicious Heights....where our only limitations are yours!

Delicious Heights is located at 428 Springfield Avenue in Berkeley Heights. 908.464.3287; 285 Main Street in Bedminster. 908.234.1596; 185 Madisonville Road in Basking Ridge. 908.766.9499.