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Sports Editor

GROTON — Veteran Groton-Dunstable boys lacrosse coach Rick Arena is dealing with a much younger team in 2008 after heavy graduation losses. But Arena is optimistic that the Crusaders can be competitive as they gain varsity experience.

“It is fun coaching players that are willing to learn and willing to work hard,” he said. “Two weeks into practice I can see positive results. Our goal is to make the Districts and the key to that will be to keep working hard and improving each day.”

Arena feels the strength of the team will be in the defensive end where sophomores Kirk Bingham and Kevin Kieda, along with senior Thomas MacEachern will start.

“Kirk came off the bench last season and is fast, athletic and tough and provides a physical presence,” said Arena. “Kevin has a great attitude and plays at full speed all the time. He is intelligent, has great stick work and is a leader. Thomas played on the junior varsity team last season and has been a pleasant surprise. He is much more disciplined and consistent this season and he is getting better every day.”

Sophomore Chris Daigle is pushing for a starting berth in the defensive end, while freshman Chris Henderson adds depth.

“Chris can run forever and he is very tenacious on ground balls,” said Arena. “He will take faceoffs for us and will also see time at long stick middie. Chris is new to the program and is looking to create a niche at this level.

“We need our defense to force bad shots and to minimize opponents’ scoring chances,” said Arena.

The starting attackmen figure to be junior Jon Hartzell, junior Jake Penney and sophomore Kyle Strong, with freshmen Eric Wollrath and Greg Stratton pushing for quality time.

“Jon is good with his stick and has a hard shot,” said Arena. “He has good size and has the ability to create scoring opportunities. Jake didn’t play last season and was a middie as a freshman. His stick work is improving, he is tough and he is a natural leader. Kyle has varsity experience and good stick skills and we are looking for improvement from him as he gains varsity experience. Eric has very good stick work and a great athletic sense. He can create scoring opportunities. Greg is strong and tough and is good with his stick. Both he and Eric are fighting for varsity time.”

“We are looking for a finisher to emerge at attack,” said Arena. “We are inexperienced entering the season, but the talent is there to turn that around.”

The Crusaders have experience at midfield as their starters will be sophomores Richard Pomeroy, Brett Ursprung and Tim Marris. All of them got solid varsity playing time as freshmen.

“Richard is fast and has a good lacrosse IQ,” said Arena. “He is athletic, is good with his stick and is a key to our transition game. Brett is an athlete with good size. He can run and is a good defensive player. Tim is fundamentally sound and is one of our better lacrosse players. He is a talented player who could play any position on the field.”

Senior Alex Cedrone is injured right now, but will press for a starting berth once he is healthy.

“Alex is a three-year varsity player who gives us speed and experience,” said Arena.

The starting goaltender will be sophomore Daniel Waters.

“Daniel didn’t play last season and has been a pleasant surprise,” said Arena. “He is fearless and he’s learning the technical end of the position. He has a huge upside with added experience.”

“Our strengths are the work ethic of the players, our athletic ability and the players’ willingness to learn,” said Arena. “The concerns are inexperience and improving our overall stick skills, although that has come a long way in two weeks of practice.”