VERONA, NJ - With a roster that boasts 18 non-senior players the Verona boys lacrosse team is looking to build their chemistry to set the stage for a potential multi-year state tournament run.
“This team is going to be back to back years without losing many guys so our key focus is team chemistry, getting to know each other and going out and having fun,” said Verona Head Coach Matt Diglio.
The squad hopes that the depth provided from experience in 2017 will help them overcome a tough schedule in the SEC Conference.
“This year it’s going to be more of a shared ball concept where everyone is involved at all times and you can’t focus on just one or two players on the offensive side,” said Diglio.
Leading the squad in 2018 will be a defensive unit headed by a number of varsity experienced underclassmen. Captain Matt Aldiero leads the unit for the Hillbillies looking to continue on a solid sophomore campaign where he averaged over two ground balls per-game.
“[Aldiero]’s going to be a third year starter as a junior and he’s really come into his own over the last year and a half as far as really being a leader on defense and that shutdown defender that you’re always looking for,” said Diglio.
Joining Aldiero will be fellow juniors Brandon Cariani and Jack Gautieri. Senior Jack Swanstrom and sophomore Ryan Huze will also factor into the back end looking to improve on a defense that averaged a little under nine goals per-game allowed in 2017.
“We’re looking for big things from [the defense],” said Diglio.
In the cage Verona will boast junior Captain Harrison Keating as their main goalkeeper. Keating hopes that a full year of games in net will improve on the team’s state ranking, which placed them out of the top 100 at 114. Last season Keating played on an as-needed basis to spare the squad in penalty situations.
“[Keating] was called upon many times freshman and sophomore year when he was ice cold to jump in net which happened way more than I would have liked,” said Diglio.
Midfielder Jarrod Keating will take charge for The Hillbillies in 2018 as an additional Captain following a strong season last year. Last season Keating was well rounded tallying 15 goals, 12 assists and 29 ground balls for the squad as a sophomore. He’s been praised thus far for his leadership abilities with the group.
“[Keating]’s just been very vocal so far in the preseason,” said Diglio.
Joining Keating will be sophomore’s Jake McConnachie and Patrick Yeates who will return as starters from last year. Rounding out the group will be a sub rotation of junior Jeremy Baub who’s been praised for his work in the offseason.
“[Baub]’s motivation and determination this year has really flipped the switch,” said Diglio.
Offensively, Verona will return their sole senior Captain in Matt DiDia to the group. DiDia led the squad in scoring last year tallying 19 goals and five assists on the season. DiDia is expected to build upon his successes as a full season removed from a knee injury should yield increased productivity.
“[DiDia] missed his entire sophomore campaign with a knee injury and it kind of lingered last year even though he had a pretty good junior year, but it still hampered him so we’re expecting him at 100 percent this year the whole way through,” said Diglio.
Finishing out the offensive squad will be sophomore Jerry Strippoli who had a solid season last year. The final attack position will be a battle between the hottest hands of either freshman Jack Lonsinger or senior Chris Sabo. The group will look to improve on an 8.53 goals per-game average to get them closer to the top 50 off the State.
“They will all see playing time it’s just a matter of who ends up pushing out at the end, game by game or week by week,” said Diglio.
Currently the group as a whole is working to get their collective bodies in shape for the opening game against Newark Academy.
“Our main focus has been lifting and conditioning,” said Diglio.
While most teams have grandiose expectations the Hillbilly squad has taken a marginal approach that they hope will produce wins on a daily basis.
“They’ve really been focused on that first game and haven’t looked past that right now and as a coaching staff we love that because they are focused on the first game,” said Diglio.
TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.
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