Woodstock Lacrosse Overpowers Hartford
Hartford High attackman Andrew Atkinson shields the ball while preparing to scoop it up Tuesday against Woodstock defenseman Will Gault. The host Wasps won, 12-1. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Woodstock High midfielder Oliver Kaija eludes the pursuit of Hartford defenseman Taylor Thompson on Tuesday. Kaija scored three times to lead the host Wasps to a 12-1 victory. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Woodstock High's Daniel Robinson hits the turf Tuesday with Hartford's Jason Bielecki on his heels. The host Wasps improved to 4-2 with a 12-1 victory. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Woodstock — On Monday, the Woodstock Union High boys lacrosse team needed a frantic rally to forge an overtime victory on the road. Tuesday, the Wasps waltzed in a rout of visiting Hartford, pounding the Hurricanes, 12-1. Oliver Kaija and Haven Lantz each had three goals and two assists and Connor McCarthy added two tallies and a helper as the hosts improved to 4-2.
Sixth-year Woodstock coach Brandon Little said his program, which has lost several standouts to graduation in each of the past three years, is in a rebuilding process. But reloading might be a better description if the Wasps can keep improving throughout the spring. Monday’s game at Mount Anthony saw the visitors win 11-10 in extra time after trailing by five goals to begin the fourth quarter.
“We’re going to need all 14 (regular season) games for our young players to learn what varsity-level, Division I lacrosse is about,” Little said. “It takes that long to get them used to game speed up here.”
Woodstock, which has lost twice to powerful Middlebury this season, carries five freshmen and seven sophomores on its 25-player roster. The former group includes attackman Jonas Kantola, and midfielders Daniel Robinson and Conner Black and the latter encompasses goaltender Wynn Falvey and midfielders Nikolai Davis and Braden McCarthy, all of whom saw significant time Tuesday.
“For Woodstock, we have rebuilding years almost every year and we have to have young kids contribute to make our program strong,” Little said. “Our young guys have had to learn all our systems, the offense and defense and clears and rides. We have six offensive sets and two defensive sets and there’s a lot of information to take in, but they’re doing a good job at it.”
The Wasps are led by seniors such as goaltender Ben Orr, who got a day off against Hartford and midfielder Kaija, and juniors such as attackman Lantz, midfielders Nemo Wood and Connor McCarthy and defenseman Will Gault. Junior defenseman Connor Fegard, who played AAU basketball last spring, has made an impact upon his return this season, although he sat out the contest against the Hurricanes.
Woodstock led 7-0 at intermission and only a John Bielecki goal after the break prevented a shutout. Hartford fell to 1-5 and has been outscored, 39-9 during its last three games, but nonetheless got strong performances Tuesday from junior goaltender James Young, who made 13 saves, and freshman defenseman Bailey Nott, who manned the crease in front of him.
Faceoffs were dominated by Kaija, a burly but agile senior who plans to play NCAA Division III football at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., this fall. Kaija said he hopes to walk on to the Engineers’ lacrosse team, which recently completed an 11-5 season.
“I really enjoy faceoffs because they’re a nuanced part of the game and there are a lot of ways to do them,” Kaija said. “It’s like rock-paper-scissors and you’re trying to anticipate what the other person is doing.
“I’m physical and I have a pretty big butt, so that helps. Even if you don’t win the faceoff, you have to fight for the ball and it’s a fun part of the game. It’s the ultimate 1-on-1 matchup in lacrosse.”
Woodstock also received a goal and two assists from Wood, a goal and an assist from Kantola and single tallies from McCarthy and Campbell Boswell. Falvey made only four saves, but was praised by Little for his smart decisions and sharp execution on clears.
“He has quick hands and he makes excellent outlets passes,” the coach said. “He was clearing the ball to our attack on a line today. I feel very confident having Wynn in the goal at any time. He’s a great backup for us.”
Woodstock reached the division quarterfinals last season before being eliminated by a senior-laden Essex team on the road. The Hornets have won only two of their first five games this spring, but will still be a good test for the young Wasps.
“We’re not a deep team, but we outwork you,” Kaija said. “We’ve got something like 20 freshmen in the program and I can see a lot of them being pretty good players by the time they’re seniors.”
Notes: Orr said he will attend Boston’s Emmanual College and play for the Saints, who are 15-3 this spring and visit Tufts in a first-round NCAA Division III playoff game today. … Little said Hunter Schmell, a standout senior attackman on last year’s Woodstock team, will soon transfer from Stevenson (Md.) University to Merrimack (Mass.) College. Schmell has played in four games and has two goals and an assist for Stevenson, which hosts an NCAA Division III first-round playoff game today. Merrimack is a Division II program that went 12-5 this year. … Nick Schmell, Hunter’s older brother, is a junior attackman at Limestone (S.C.) College, which is 16-1 and opens Division II tournament play this weekend.
Tris Wykes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3227.