The Hereford boys’ lacrosse team won its ninth straight regional title last season and finished 16-2, and that wasn’t good enough for head coach Sal Picattagi.
That’s because the season ended with a 7-6 loss to Mount Hebron in the Class 3A-2A state semifinals in a game the Bulls outshot the Vikings, 41-19.
“Every day I mention it,” Picataggi said. “We happened to have the only bad day of our season last year that day, practice, preseason, indoor, you name it. Motivation, every single day I don’t let them forget.”
Attention to detail has been a point of emphasis during the preseason and that will carry on through the season.
Not surprisingly, the defense will again be the team’s strength.
“We have some really key guys coming back,” said Picataggi, whose squad won the Baltimore County championship last season.
Four-year starter Campbell Carr returns on defense along with three-year starters Troy Tuveson and Scott Middleton.
All three were All-County first team selections last season.
Carr, who joined the varsity in 2014, a year after Hereford won its sixth straight state championship in 2013, will play at Mount St. Mary’s next season and Tuveson will play at Air Force Academy.
“He [Tuveson] could play Division I anywhere. He’s 6-foot-5, 225-230 pounds and he throws a check like he’s 225-230 pounds and he’s got great feet,” Picataggi said. “He’s a big, strong and fast Division I defensemen.”
Middleton, a long-stick midfielder, will play at Loyola University Maryland.
“I think Scott Middleton is one of the best players in the state,” Picataggi said. “He knows where the pass is going and he intercepts it. Every check is a takeaway check.”
They will play in from of starting junior goalie John Talbott, who will be backed up by senior Jimmy Cavin and sophomore Josh Goodwin.
The depth on defense is also impressive with junior short-stick defensive middies Jack Drury and AJ Giza.
Senior Andrew Clark and juniors Sam Wanamaker, Justin Smith and Connor Richardson provide depth on the backline and Will Reott and Sam Furman are capable long-pole midfield reserves.
Senior Joey Chestnutt (Towson University) returns for face-off duties and he’ll run on the first midfield with classmates Roby Flyn and Wes Porter.
Behind them are a group of younger middies Picataggi won’t hesitate throwing into the mix.
“I’m really excited about my young middies,” Picataggi said.
They include freshman Cole Gibbons and sophomores Jake Baldwin and Grafton Griffey.
“You are going to see them on the field a lot too,” Picataggi said. “They don’t play like sophomores and freshmen.”
Another freshman who doesn’t play or look like one is attackman Nico DiNenna.
“You look at him and you think he’s a senior,” Picataggi said. “He’s got a senior body at 14. On the first day [of practice] he’s running through checks.”
Joining him on attack are juniors JD Nozemack and Gavin Schattall.
“JD Nozemack is the guy who makes us go on offense,” said Picataggi, noting he was the leading scorer last year.
Nozemack, an All-County first team selection, will play at Monmouth University in 2018.
Schattall moves from midfield to attack this spring.
“That was a great move for him,” Picataggi said. “Gavin has really come into his own.”
The coach can also call on reserve attackmen including senior Will Adams, junior Henry Traynor or freshman Jake Furman.
Midfield depth comes from seniors Ben Reott, Kyle Rasmussen and Pete Wickiser, juniors Max Herbkersman, Brady McGee, Duncan Potter and Sam Kozak and freshman Tony Pistorio.
Hereford opens the regular season at home on March 21 at 6:30 p.m. against Severna Park.
The Falcons were the only team that defeated the Baltimore County champion Bulls during the regular season last year.
“I’m looking forward to that,” Picataggi said.