By ADAM SHINDER
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- Amsterdam High School lacrosse coach Paul Furman believes his program is ready to take its next leap forward. The schedule he's set for the Rams this season is an indication of that.
The Rams opened preseason practice last week with four weeks to prepare for an ambitious schedule that, due to a change in the Big 10's league format leaving Amsterdam with only six league contests, allowed Furman to seek out more non-league games against challenging opponents to get Amsterdam ready for the Section II Class B playoffs.
That gauntlet starts immediately with the Rams' March 29 opener against Class A Columbia. As for the rest of the season, gone are the days of the Rams playing home-and-home series with multiple Class C teams. This year, the only Section II Class C programs on the Amsterdam schedule are local rival Johnstown and the two Class C sectional finalists from 2013, Glens Falls and Schuylerville.
Furman said this isn't a step he would have taken if he didn't believe his players were ready for the challenge.
"Last year, having a 9-8 record and seeing the work these guys put in, we kind of as a staff decided, 'Let's bump up our schedule a little bit,'" Furman said.
Amsterdam's veteran players, who have been a part of the foundation of a building program for the past several seasons, are excited for the new test.
"We'll definitely see what we're made of," said senior attackman Jon Magaletti.
And while practice has only been officially open for a week, Furman said this year's team has a head start thanks to a rigorous offseason schedule. Several underclassmen played on top-level club programs in the Capital Region, and most of the rest of the roster was involved in a combined box (indoor) lacrosse program with Johnstown.
"Just to keep their skills fresh, moving around in the winter and trying to improve during the offseason," he said. "And lacrosse is an evolving sport, and these guys really committed in the weight room."
Though the Rams haven't been able to practice outside the confines of the AHS gymnasium yet, Magaletti said that once the team gets out on the turf at Lynch Literacy Academy, the style they developed indoors should translate well.
"I think a lot of that fast-paced stuff is gonna carry over once we get outside," he said.
Furman's seen his players click reasonably well over the opening days of preseason, though the important thing now is to avoid too many lulls in energy over the long wait until the regular season finally begins.
"When we came in, the kids were all excited, fired up and ready to go -- we're not dropping any passes, everything is full energy and feels great," Furman said. "Now, the reality is starting to set in. Now, we're starting to struggle with that coming in every day and having that same energy. So far, they've held it together. They've gotten past that glimmer of the first few days and they've kept that energy and that excitement."
For seniors like Magaletti and standout goaltender Dillon Smith, there's plenty of motivation to keep the energy level high.
"This is our year," Smith said. "With the adjustments we've made, our team's been on the rise the past few years."
"It's been a rough trip, but we're getting better every year," he finished.
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