Heading into his seventh year as the Dulaney boys lacrosse coach after taking over for former Lions great Jake Reed, Kyle Fiat has put together a formidable program at the Timonium school.
Under Fiat, the Lions have compiled a 72-32 record and are usually in the hunt for a Baltimore County title by the time the season winds down in May.
Last year, though, was an exception in that regard, considering that Dulaney finished just one game over the break-even mark at 9-8 and never threatened to make much headway against powerhouse Hereford or archival Towson — the teams that ultimately played for the county crown with the Bulls prevailing.
Still, it was a winning season, albeit one with more challenges than Fiat has had in previous campaigns.
This spring, the Lions appear to be back in the running for county supremacy, especially because of having much more seasoned players filling key roles.
It starts in the goal with junior Matthew Stidham, last year’s starter, and an able backup, sophomore Brennan McCaffray, anchoring the position.
“Matthew has developed a great deal of confidence from playing last year, and he has worked hard in the off-season to get even better,” Fiat said. “And Brennan is doing a great job of pushing for playing time behind Matthew.”
They will be shielded by senior long-stick middie Caid Dickens and short-stick defenders Dawson Porter, a senior, and junior Aidan Dougherty.
Senior Austin Bonaventura lends a physical presence to the close defense, as does junior Josh Nicoll.
Nicoll is a 6-foot-5, 215-pound junior who has not played the sport since playing in youth recreation leagues before high school.
Juniors Grier Slaughter, Sam Edmunds and Aaron Dow will also be in the mix with Slaughter the likely starter at this point.
Dow was second at the Baltimore County wrestling tournament at 182 pounds and qualified for the state tournament.
On the midfield, senior Joey Wenzl, sets the tone as much for his ability as for his attitude.
“He’s a really hard worker, and the kind of kid you just love to coach,” Fiat said.
Wenzl, who will share face-off duties with Porter, will run with juniors Will Schmidt and Tommy Hartman.
“He [Schmidt] is a big, strong kid who will be a force to be reckoned with as he develops,” Fiat said.
Hartman is returning after missing last season with a leg injury.
Look for seniors Jack Hermann and Chris Nance to log their share of minutes in the midfield.
Senior Zach Swanson, a three-year starter, gets the nod to run the offense with the strongest skill-set on the team, according to Fiat.
“Zach sees the field really well and does a great job of feeding the ball,” the coach added.
Junior Ben Paepcke, whose strength is dealing with contact before, during or after a shot, will vie to be included in the attack rotation with classmates Drew Pezzulla and Patrick Unger.
“We struggled to put the ball in the net last year,” Fiat said. “But the mental aspect of the team has changed this year because we have so much more confidence because we have more experience. We had a lot of sophomores playing last year, and a lack of confidence is what held us back. Just a couple of more goals last year would have made a big difference.”
Fiat said that improved confidence is not just limited to the offense.
The energy and chemistry has been on display during the preseason.
“The defense is flying around to the ball, and that’s encouraging,” he said. “They’re really working together as a unit.”
The Lions should be able to tell as soon as their opener against Westminster on March 21 or their second game against Towson three days later to see if things have improved.
“We took a pounding from both of them last year,” he said. “So we hope to be much better prepared this time.”
Dulaney schedule 2017
March 21— vs. Westminster, 5:15 p.m.
March 24 — at Towson, 5:15 p.m.
March 27 — vs. Chesapeake, 5:15 p.m.
March 31 — at Catonsville, 5:15 p.m.
April 4 — at Eastern Tech, 3:45 p.m.
April 7 — Fallston, at John Hopkins, 7 p.m.
April 8 — at St. Mary's Ryken, 4 p.m.
April 13 — at Broadneck, 7 p.m.
April 19 — at Perry Hall, 5:15 p.m.
April 21 — vs. Sparrows Point, 5:15 p.m.
April 26 — at Hereford, 6:30 p.m.
April 29 — vs. John Carroll, at US Lacrosse, 1:30 p.m.
May 3 — at Franklin, 5:15 p.m.
May 10 — Sectional quarterfinals, TBA
May 12 — Sectional semifinals, TBA
May 15 — Sectional finals, TBA
May 17 — Regional finals, TBA
May 19-20 State semifinals, TBA
May 23-24 State finals at Stevenson University, 4 p.m., 6 p.m. 8 p.m.