PEABODY — With a new coaching staff and solid returners at every position, things may be looking up for the Peabody boys lacrosse team.
It’s been three years since the Tanners last qualified for the Division 1 North tournament, but first-year coach Leo Shidler believes that could change this spring.
“Our goal is to make the tournament, absolutely, and anything short of that will be a disappointment,” Shidler said. “We are still figuring things out, but we have talent in every position and a very experienced goalie (Austin Leggett), so we have high expectations for this team.”
Shidler is the third coach at Peabody in less than a year, taking over for former Peabody High and Springfield College standout Greg Welch after Welch stepped down at the end of the 2018 season. Welch was appointed interim head coach just days before the start of the 2018 season after Tony O’Donnell, who had been with the program since 1999, resigned during the first week of tryouts.
Despite the unsettled start to the season, the Tanners’ tournament hopes were still alive going in the final game of the season. Needing to beat Marblehead to finish 9-9, the Tanners ran out of gas to finish one game shy of qualifying.
Enter Shidler, who played at Peabody for former coach Kevin Houlden. He played four years of college lacrosse at Mount Ida College.
The Tanners will be led by their co-captains, seniors Ryan Fera,Tyler Norman and Leggett, and junior Colby Therrien.
Fera and Therrien will anchor the midfield along with returning senior Jack Woods and returning sophomore Anthony Bettencourt.
In the attack, senior Connor McCarron, junior Nick Patturelli and sophomore Jack Houlden along with sophomore attack/middie Keenan Madden will be key players.
Norman will lead an experienced defensive unit that includes defensive midfielders Josh Tanzer, a senior, and Nick Ricci, a junior, sophomore defensemen Lucas Drew and Nick Vecchio and junior defenseman James Guiry.
Leggett, in his third full year as starting goalie, figures to be a pivotal player in the backfield.
“He is a solid goalie and a very good leader,” said Shidler. “He runs the defense. He is quiet but a good on-field communicator so we will depend on his leadership.”
Senior Patrick Russo, the Tanners’ face-off specialist, is back for another season.
“He will be expected to be a key player for us on faceoffs this year,” Shidler said.
Senior defenseman Aiden Kelleher, junior attack Trevor Smith and junior defenseman Michael Zarro are also in the mix for playing time.
While tryout numbers were significantly down, Shidler was not unhappy.
“The numbers were definitely down and we had only 31 kids who tried out, so that was not quite what I had hoped for, but I am not disappointed,” he said. “The good news is that there will probably be about 12 kids on the JV and those kids will be lots of playing time.”
Schidler has assembled a large staff of assistant coaches to help with the team. Leo Shidler, Sr. will serve as assistant head coach and offensive assistant, while Kevin Mulvey will serve as defensive coordinator. Jake Pimenta (defensive assistant) and offensive assistants Brandon Boutin and Paul Gatti are also on board.
The Tanners open the season with four non-conference games, the first against Lowell Monday (7) on the road at Cawley Stadium.
Peabody begins conference play April 18 at home against Danvers (4).
Shidler said he expects the “usual suspects” are the teams to beat in the Northeastern Conference.
“Marblehead, Beverly and Danvers will be tough again this year, as they seem to be every year,” Shidler said.
The highlight of the Tanners’ season comes May 17 with the annual Danish Cup cross-city rivalry game at Bishop Fenwick (7).
“Obviously I have the experience of being on the wrong side when I was with Fenwick, but the Danish Cup is always incredible,” said Shidler. “I expect this year will be another great experience as Fenwick is loaded this year.”