LYNN — A slow start to the season doomed the Lynn Jets lacrosse team last spring.
Lynn played stout on the defensive end but struggled to generate quality scoring chances and stumbled out of the gate, dropping its first five games. With a new season on the horizon and a solid core of experienced returners, the Jets are confident they can avoid a slow start in 2018 as they hope to contend in the Northeastern Conference.
“We started real slow (last season), we started 0-5 and that hurt our chances of having a solid record,” Jets coach Peter Pappagianopoulos, in his ninth season at the helm of the program, said. “We played a lot of close games to start but we couldn’t find ways to close them. We did a much better job closing games towards the end of the season.”
The bright side moving forward for the Jets as they turn the page to the new season is they return four key starters who’ll look to right the ship. It begins with the Clougherty brothers, junior defenseman Brian and senior midfielder Mike. Both are fresh from stellar seasons on the ice with the Jets, as they were each named NEC hockey all-stars and formed one of the more feared lines in the conference.
Also returning to the team are senior midfielder Shidley Belize and senior attacker Quinn Brinkler.
“We lost quite a few good players from last year’s team,” Pappagianopoulos said. “I feel like we have a solid core returning. We have good leadership with the Clougherty brothers, Brinkley and Belize. We’ll see what happens when we get out on the field based on the weather. We’re positive this year. We have a solid number of players and a lot of good kids.”
In net, senior Alan Albornoz projects to be the team’s starter. He split time between the junior varsity and varsity teams last season.
“Alan was a JV/varsity player last season,” Pappagianopoulos said. “He came into the varsity team towards the end of the season and got some playing time. So far, he has looked pretty good.”
Defense looks to be Lynn’s strongest suit this year. On the flip side, the team will need to address last season’s struggles on offense in order to win games. Generating quality scoring opportunities is one of the points Pappagianopoulos has stressed through the preseason.
“We return most of our defense, that should be a strong suit,” Pappagianopoulos said. “In the past we’ve struggled to score goals. I think that’ll be our main focus throughout this preseason, finding a way to score goals. Defensively we should be very strong. We graduated three of our top scorers from last season. We’re basically resetting our offense with a whole new group of guys.”
With inclement weather, it’s been tough for Pappagianopoulos to assess how the team has looked in the early stages of the preseason. Lynn opens its season next Monday night (7) with a home game against NEC opponent Saugus at Manning Field.
“Things have looked pretty good but that’s on a small patch of grass,” Pappagianopoulos said. “We’ll see how things look when we’re able to get out on a field.”
“Our goal is to come out strong in game one,” Pappagianopoulos added. “We have to find a way to score goals right off the bat. We weren’t allowing many goals last year but we couldn’t score. That’ll be our focus right away, to try and find some goal scoring.”