After an uncharacteristically down season two years ago, the Polytech Panthers boys lacrosse program bounced back in 2017, earning a trip to the DIAA Boys Lacrosse State Tournament.
This season, the Panthers bring back 13 players from last year’s squad that finished the year 11-4 before a first round playoff exit against a tough Tower Hill team.
With experience behind them and several new faces looking to make an impact, Polytech is hoping to once again compete in one of the toughest conferences in the state, the Henlopen.
While every team goes through their roster and sets expectations at the beginning of the year, as Polytech Head Coach Robert Gilmore says, you never know what type of team you have until they take the field.
“As always with a new season, there is the element of the unknown,” Gilmore said. “What will the spring bring us? How well is the new team chemistry going to develop and who will our leaders be?”
When it comes to leadership, Polytech has eight returning seniors, including Stephen Baione, Christian Brooks, Cory Cook, Kyle Gardner, Zach Klinkenborg, Patrick O’Brien, Chris Rutkoski and Zach Trabaudo who earned first-team all-conference honors last season.
Like any team with a lot of experienced seniors, the Panthers will lean heavily on their fourth year players this season.
“We expect these guys to provide solid and steady leadership and stability while developing some young players around them,” Gilmore said.
Polytech has their fair share of younger players back to pair with their core senior class. Five underclassmen are back for the Panthers this season, including juniors Jason Connelly, Bradley Crego and Montrell Jones, along with sophomores Josh Blandino and Chris McCalister.
They’ve added a handful of newcomers as well, like juniors Dylan Bailey, Adam Decker, Kaleb Kmiec, Chris Lloyd, Xavier Ortiz and Darren Russum. Also new to the team are sophomores Connor Fuchs, Max Wilson and freshman newcomer Sam Slater.
So far, the mix of experience and new up and coming talent has led to some early victories in the 2018 season for Polytech.
Entering this week’s play, the Panthers have won two of their first three games, defeating Middletown from the Blue Hen Conference and fellow Henlopen Conference foe Smyrna in their last two games after falling to a very tough Archmere Academy squad in their season opener.
With a lot of season left, Gilmore and his team are keeping a one game at a time approach, knowing if they continue to grow together and execute the way they know how that they’ll be in the thick of things come playoff time.
“Our goal is to simply improve everyday and see where we finish at the end of things,” Gilmore said. “We begin each and every season the same way, competing in every drill, everyday. If we focus on that concept while building our skills, we’ll be competitive on game day.”