One of the biggest growing sports in the United States is lacrosse – and the Caldwell and West Essex boys teams are two of the better teams in Essex County.
Both teams were over .500 last season as the Knights went 14-5, while the Chiefs were 13-8. West Essex even ended Caldwell's season in the Group 1 state playoffs in the second round, 10-4.
The Knights had a nice run in the county and state tournaments by making the semi-finals in both of them. In the county tourney, West Essex was knocked out by Seton Hall Prep while losing in overtime, 8-7, to Madison in the Group 1 semi-finals.
Both head coaches – West Essex's Tim Glenn and Caldwell's John Timan – know avoiding injuries will help determine how far their teams can go this season.
Caldwell is looking to improve across the board and has most of its starters returning this season.
"We have a lot of guys returning with our two top attackers and returning defensemen," said Caldwell head coach John Timan.
Last season, the Chiefs came in second in the Waterman Conference, only behind Glen Ridge. "Our number one goal is to win the conference," said Timan.
Timan said the key will be to stay away from injuries. "As long as we stay healthy we will do very well," said Timan.
The top two attackers are senior co-captain Chris Lawshe and sophomore Billy Pierce. Lawshe was first team All Waterman Conference last season and has accumulated 93 goals and 51 assists for the last two seasons. "I really think he worked on his quickness," said Timan about Lawshe. "He's even quicker than last year.”
Pierce scored 43 goals and 14 assists and Timan expects more from him this season. “He has looked good this year in the scrimmages,” said the Caldwell head coach, who is entering his seventh year leading the Chiefs.
The top losses from last season were midfielder Andrew Kratsch, Jason's brother, who is playing at Kings Point and goalie Bryan Lockward, who is playing lacrosse at Lebanon Valley.
On defense, Caldwell is led by senior co-captain Chris Zaorski and junior Henry McCoy.
Leading the midfield is senior co-captain Jason Kratsch who accumulated 22 goals and 18 assists last season and was named second team All Waterman. The other top midfielders are senior Griffin Nikolayuk and junior Anthony Maddaloni.
Replacing Lockward in goal will be senior Yago Ferreira and sophomore Joe Vogt. Ferreira missed last season because of an injury. He was a goalie on the junior varsity as a sophomore. Vogt also was injured during the preseason and played in his first scrimmage this week.
The West Essex boys lacrosse team has one thing on its mind, making the county and Group 1 finals.
Last season, the Knights fell in the semi-finals of both tournaments. West Essex lost to Seton Hall Prep in the county semi-finals, while dropping an overtime heartbreaker to Madison.
For 2011, the goal is to go up at least another spot in the tournament.
In addition to the tournaments, head coach Tim Glenn would like to take care of conference rivals Summit, Chatham and Madison – the teams West Essex has had the toughest time with.
Leading the way back for West Essex are a pair of goal scorers and the team's goalie.
Offensively the strength of the team is in the midfield with the top two scorers back in co-captain seniors Joe Fusco and Patrick Farrell. Fusco tallied 40 goals and seven assists last season, while Farrell hit the back of the net 26 times and had nine assists.
"Joe has speed, intelligence and is the best shot on the team," said Glenn about Fusco. About Farrell, he added, “He has speed, strength, determination, and also has a good shot."
Another plus for the 2011 Knights is the return of senior co-captain goalie Mike Wiatrak who grabbed 204 saves last season for a 61% save percentage.
"He is excellent in and out of cage," said Glenn about his goalie. "Mike is a great communicator and runs the defense."
The other co-captain on the team is senior Tyler Fossetta. "He [is] the best stick handling defenseman while being good in transition," said Glenn of Fossetta. "He is an excellent positional defenseman."
Joining Fossetta on a solid defense is senior Mike Mitchell, a fierce competitor, according to Glenn, and Matt Piscitello, who he said is a very good communicator and best on the ball. A quality defensive midfielder is K.J. Glenn and a two-way midfielder is senior Anthony Perrotta, who Glenn said is excellent at the ground balls and clearing.
The quarterback on the offense is sophomore attacker Matt Garvey who has a quick and good shot.
Caldwell 2011 Boys Lacrosse Schedule
April 2 Montville, 11:30 a.m. (Caldwell 15, Montville 8)
April 4 Morristown-Beard
April 7 at Columbia
April 12 at Clifton, 11 a.m.
April 13 at Montclair Kimberley
April 16 St. Peters Prep, 12:30
April 18 Sparta
April 20 at Cranford
April 26 Randolph
April 29 at Johnson
May 2 Ridge, 4:30 p.m.
May 4 Verona, 4:30 p.m.
May 6 at West Morris Central, 7 p.m.
May 10 at Glen Ridge, 4:15 p.m.
May 12 at Millburn, 5:30 p.m.
May 21 State Playoffs, TBA
West Essex 2011 Boys Lacrosse Schedule
(Games at 4:30 p.m. unless noted)
April 7 West Morris Central
April 9 Shawnee, 11 a.m.
April 11 Immaculata
April 13 at Summit, 4 p.m.
April 15 at Westfield
April 19 Glen Ridge
April 20 at West Morris Mendham, 4 p.m.
April 23 Madison, 10 a.m.
April 25 at Seton Hall Prep, 4 p.m.
April 30 Essex County Tournament, TBA
May 2 at St. Augustine Prep, 4:30 p.m.
May 4 Kingsway Regional, 5:30 p.m.
May 7 Essex County Semi-finals, TBA
May 10 at Kinnelon
May 12 Chatham
May 14 Essex County Tournament Finals, TBA
May 17 at Delbarton, 4 p.m.