Amsterdam’s Matt Russo, left, defends teammate Mark Hughes (8) during boys lacrosse practice Monday at Lynch Literacy Academy. (Adam Shinder/Recorder staff)
By ADAM SHINDER
As Jesse Kellogg and the rest of the Amsterdam High School boys lacrosse team went through their practice session Monday afternoon at Lynch Literacy Academy, they did so knowing full well it might be the last time they see the green of the Lynch turf for a little while.
“We’re really grateful that we have turf here in Amsterdam,” said Kellogg, a senior and Amsterdam’s starting goalkeeper. “Some other schools haven’t even gotten the chance to get outside. We’re definitely taking the opportunity to get in as much work as we can here.”
Tuesday’s blizzard will likely contain the Rams to indoor practices for at least another week, so the squad was glad to get in full-field outdoor work when they had the chance.
“Being able to be outside for this last day before the storm is good,” Amsterdam coach Paul Furman said. “We told the guys to make everything of it, because you’re gonna be stuck in the gym and you’re not gonna be able to see a field for a while.”
Whether they’re working indoors or outdoors, the Rams have plenty to accomplish over the next several weeks as they get ready for their April 8 season opener at home against Troy and their Foothills Council opener five days later at Schuylerville.
Amsterdam’s biggest emphasis during the preseason is getting a consistent offense in place. While the team returns its entire starting defense, the Rams lost nearly all of their scoring from the past two seasons. Between their junior and senior seasons, attackman Luigi Iorio and midfielder Matt Fedullo put up the four biggest individual scoring campaigns in AHS lacrosse history — including more than 100 points from Iorio in 2016 — and now the Rams are tasked with replacing both, along with other key scoring threats including Camilo Medina, Tim Steele and Jon LaBahn.
In their place, Furman will turn to sophomore Anthony Barone-Lopez and junior Mark Hughes to lead the way as an inexperienced supporting cast gets up to speed.
“We’re in a cycle where we’re pretty much replacing one half (of the team),” Furman said. “We’ve got everyone coming back on defense, but down on offense we’ve got a lot of young guys. We’ve got Barone and Hughes coming back from last year, either from that we’re replacing everyone with either guys being pulled up from JV or modified, or new guys who decided they wanted to play.”
That much open competition will likely result in three freshmen and three sophomores seeing significant playing time on the offensive end of the field. It will be an adjustment at first, but it’s also an opportunity for a group of players to grow together over a period of several seasons.
“They’re gonna be tested this year. Put in the fire right away,” Furman said. “Those ninth and 10th graders, by the time they come through and they’re juniors and seniors, they have double the experience on varsity than a lot of players end up getting. They’re gonna take some lumps this year, but as long as they keep working and moving forward, it’s gonna be OK.”
For all the Rams’ youth and inexperience on offense, the team is filled with veterans on the defensive end. Four-year starter Elijah Newborn is the team’s top close defender, whwile Jarrett Nowak, Jio Orengo, Randy Faria and Colby Nasadoski also return to carry the six-foot defensive poles. Amsterdam also has Kellogg back for a second season between the pipes, while Hughes will also play a vital role both as a two-way midfielder and the team’s face-off specialist.
“That defense can really step up and be the strength of this team,” Furman said.
“It’s good to have a strong core on defense,” Kellogg said. “We’ve always had a lot of guys returning on offense, and this year we’re young on offense but we’re working hard and it’s going well. On defense, we’ve played together since seventh grade, we have that connection together and we know what we have to do as a group.”
It will be up to those veterans to shepherd their young teammates through what could be a frustrating series of practices inside a cramped gym.
“We’re definitely not looking forward to it, but we’re gonna make the best of the situation,” Kellogg said. “It’ll really make us focus on our movements, focus on our ball-handling.”
Contact ADAM SHINDER at firstname.lastname@example.org