Brunswick lacrosse team filled with talent, youth

The captains for Brunswick lacrosse pose for a photo after their scrimmage against Greenwich High School. From left are Peter Khoury, Jack DeFrino and Charlie Better.

The captains for Brunswick lacrosse pose for a photo after their scrimmage against Greenwich High School. From left are Peter Khoury, Jack DeFrino and Charlie Better.

Although the Brunswick School lacrosse team has a load of talent and skill at nearly all the positions on the field, the youth of the Bruins will be hard to overlook.

However, that doesn’t mean the core group of returners and head coach David Bruce aren’t up for the challenge.

“We have some experience coming back this year,” Bruce said. “We have a small senior class, a large number of sophomores who will find themselves in starting roles and a couple of key juniors. Even some freshmen might get some time this year. We are definitely younger than we have been in the past several seasons.”

Last year, Brunswick played one of the toughest schedules in the New England 1 West Division and finished with a highly respectable 11-7 overall record. They ended the season ranked 77th in the country and were ranked sixth in the state.

“We like our team and they have potential, but there are a few question marks we have,” Bruce said. “We have some big names in some key spots. We have Tommy Heidt in goal, Alex Kelly at faceoff, Charlie Better on defense, [Jack] DeFrino will be on defense and Peter Khoury will be in midfield. We have a great team and they are athletic. I have to see if we could handle those big post-grad senior schools. Physically we need to get bigger. The sophomores are small.”

One of the biggest strengths for Brunswick this year will be in net, as junior Tommy Heidt returns as the team’s goalie. Playing in his first varsity season last year, Heidt finished with 153 saves.

“He’s going to keep us in a lot of games by himself,” Bruce said. “We wouldn’t trade him for any goalie in the country. We think he’s a special goalie. He’s athletic, he believes in himself and he’s a great teammate for the kids to be around.”

Backing up Heidt at defense will be a group that needs to pick up the slack from graduating players like John Baker and Court Townshend, who finished last year netting 81 and 33 groundballs, respectively.

The senior captain duo of Charlie Better and Jack DeFrino will lead this year’s defense. Last year, Better was second on the team, netting 33 groundballs. However, this year Better started the season with an ankle sprain and hasn’t played, but Bruce is hoping he will return in time to start the season Saturday against Deerfield.

Brunswick goalie Tommy Heidt patrols the net during the team's scrimmage against Greenwich High.

Brunswick goalie Tommy Heidt patrols the net during the team’s scrimmage against Greenwich High.

Joining DeFrino and Better at defense will be junior Henry Hobbs, who is coming off an injury that sidelined him last year. Sophomore Austin Meacham is a new starter, and the team’s poles will be junior Jimmy Knight, sophomore Andrew Barnard, who is a newcomer to the school, and newcomer to the program Lazare Zoungrana, a sophomore.

“We have a lot of new positions on defense,” Bruce said. “When Charlie Better isn’t in the lineup, all our defense is brand new to their position. They need to figure out ways to give up 12- to 15-yard shots, because Tommy will be able to save a majority of those. Opposing teams would take those shots and hopefully we will be able to generate some transition off those shots. Our defense does a great job one on one; however, they are still learning how to play together.”

When it comes to midfield, Brunswick will be looking to Alex Kelly to carry the load. Last season, Kelly had a breakout year, winning 155 of the 265 faceoffs he battled for. This year he’s going to once again be the team’s main faceoff person, and Bruce said he’s as good as anybody in the country.

Joining Kelly at midfield will be senior tri-captain Peter Khoury, a role leader on the team. In addition, junior Gregg Nabhan, junior Hayes Murphy, sophomore Charlie Cobb, junior Blake Booker, and freshman Matt Sealy will see some quality time on the field.

This season the Bruins will have to make up for a plethora of talent that graduated last year at the attack. Last year, Brunswick netted 155 goals and the duo of Billy Heidt and Nick Bartlett each led the way with a combined 82 goals. Eddie DeDomenico added 13 goals for the graduating class.

At attack this time around will be junior Cam Stafford and sophomore Marshall Dickson. Bruce said that he’s been thrilled with the improvement in both of them and believes they will do a solid job at the attack. Looking for that third attacker, Bruce has high hopes for junior Jamie DeNaut and sophomores Jack Knight and Anders Ashforth.

Most of Brunswick’s offense will be generated by the midfield this year, and it’s been a while since the Bruins have been a midfield-driven offense.

“Our attack has great eyes and great vision,” Bruce said. “But physically they might not be ready to dodge one-on-one against an older, more physical defense. We have a lot of great matchups that we see in the midfield and we are very excited about them. Depending how disciplined we are, and if we dodge the shorts and stay away from the poles and the meat of the defense, I think we will be fine.”

Although the Bruins are young, that doesn’t mean Bruce toned down the team’s schedule. Brunswick will once again be battling the top teams from around the area.

“Our league is great and that’s why we changed into it,” Bruce said. “We can’t overlook one team on our schedule. We have two teams where we have to get up for, where most teams only have to worry about one and could coast by some teams. We can’t take anybody for granted and that’s exactly what we want. We could probably win almost all our games on the schedule and could lose almost all the games on the schedule. That makes things fun and exciting.”

In order to make up for the team’s lack of size, Brunswick still has a plethora of strengths this year. In addition to its usual ability to play a quick game, the team’s stickwork, being able to see the field and see teammates has been a big advantage.

“We need to create a good worth ethic. We have a tremendous sophomore and freshman class and we have a bunch of older leadership. Those older guys need to keep the younger guys focused and let them know how we want to practice. We are hardly ever going to have a schedule that will let us go undefeated. We will lose some games and hopefully win a majority of them, but we need to define who we are this year and how we play. That’s going to start with the older players.

Brunswick just got back from its Florida trip and found success. They first played Brewster and played well against a solid Northeast team. Against Exeter, which is a more physical team, Brunswick’s youth showed up in the defeat. Brunswick came back with a strong performance against Holderness and backed that up with a 7-5 victory against Kent Denver, one of the premier teams in Colorado.

On Saturday, Brunswick opens its home portion of its schedule with a game against Deerfield, one of the premier teams in the country.

Although the Bruins are carrying their hopes on a bunch of younger athletes this season, Bruce is still looking for a top-four finish in New England.

“As always, our goal is to make the top four,” Bruce said. “I think it’s possible to be in the top four, but a lot of that will be about staying healthy. We are young and I am still waiting to see how the chemistry will form on this team. Right now they are playing well, passing the ball well and are reacting to each other well. Since there are a lot of young guys that will be playing and we will be returning a lot of guys the next few years, we need to carry over all the momentum that we can generate into the summer and in the offseason. I think we have the players to get it done. The seniors are excited about this crew, and so are the coaches.”

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