It hasn’t been easy to talk about and it has been even harder to fathom for Medfield folks, but Bob Aronson is gone and the lacrosse program has to move on.
Aronson was released from his duties as head coach this offseason for reasons that remain unclear. Medfield High has alleged violations of MIAA Rule 40, regulating offseason contact with players, but sources close to the program believe his departure was in response to years’ worth of disagreements between Aronson and school administrators.
The pioneer of Medfield lacrosse, Aronson built the youth program in 1995 and the varsity program in 1999, winning five Division 2 state championships, including the last two.
But Aronson’s protégé, Mike Douglas (who never played, but has been a student of the game under Aronson since the program’s inception), along with five-year assistant John Isaf (who played at Cortland State), have taken over and are trying to move forward in Aronson’s footsteps.
“Not much has changed,’’ said Isaf, who continues to run the attacking unit, while Douglas heads the defense. “That’s a credit to Bob. He’s trusted us as we’ve grown through the program and learned from him, and we’re still trying to instill that same tradition.’’
Aside from losing their coach, the Warriors also lost four-year starting goalie Sam Aronson (Bob’s son), defenseman Garrett Read, and attack Peter Gill, all of whom are playing at Tufts.
The goaltending duties will be split between senior Doug Nelson and sophomore Robert Treiber, at least at first, but Medfield returns six of its starting seven at attack, including electric senior Connor Roddy. Cam Donnelly might be one of the best long-stick middies in the state, while Clay Richards (who has committed to Trinity) gives the Warriors an edge on faceoffs.
“Players have really responded [to the adversity],’’ said Douglas. “I’m not going to sit here and say we’re the team to beat, but we believe in ourselves.’’
The Warriors’ biggest challenge should come from Wellesley, which went 20-0 last year before losing to Medfield in the Division 2 quarterfinals.
The Raiders return All-America goalie Connor Darcey (Penn State) and what they call the No-Name Defense - a group of seniors who have been playing together since their days in the youth program. Wellesley coach Rocky Batty is still rubbing sticks together to see what sparks on offense, but with faceoff man Oliver Saffery (Gettysburg), super-distributor Peter Crane (Williams), and multitalented midfielder Ryan Cassidy (Amherst), the Raiders should be tough to beat.
Also challenging will be Hingham, which lost just four seniors and are led by All-America attack Kevin Blair (Providence). Coach John Todd said if he can get his squad chemistry to match its experience, it should be in full force.
Concord-Carlisle, which lost its biggest senior class in recent memory, will still be athletic and quick, and is anchored by senior goalie Doug Gouchoe (Air Force). Coach Tom Dalicandro said it’s a new start to another four-year cycle, but it’s hard to imagine the Patriots not being in the hunt come June.
What happens when a high school team has 17 college recruits, including 12 headed to Division 1 programs? The coach gets asked if his squad could go head to head with a college team.
Such is life at Duxbury, where the Dragons aim for their ninth Division 1 state title in 11 years.
“I’m not trying to be humble, I’m being realistic - maybe we could compete with some low-level team, but not even a good Division 3 team,’’ said Duxbury coach Chris Sweet. “We have, on paper, a very good team. But they still have to get it done on the field.’’
With Sweet’s son, Sam (Hamilton), Seamus Connelly (Duke), Paul Hellar (Fairfield), and Will Siefert (Roger Williams), the attack should carry plenty of power.
But that’s not even the team’s strength.
Henry Buonagurio (Drexel) returns between the pipes with two good long-stick midfielders in front of him in Reilly Naton (Yale) and James Burke (Penn State).
Lincoln-Sudbury (led by Army commit Paul Tocci and goalie Dan Shaughnessy), Billerica (without Grant Whiteway but still strong in net with UMass-bound D.J. Smith), and St. John’s Prep (a squad with just four seniors after the losses of All-Americans James O’Connell and Colin Blackwell) are hoping to compete with the Dragons, but it won’t be easy.
“They’re always the team to beat,’’ said Prep coach John Roy. “They set the bar so high - the word rebuilding isn’t even in their vocabulary. It’s something to strive for.’’
Acton-Boxboro gave L-S a run for its money in the season opener and is expected to be a tough out, while Needham (without All-American Will Stenberg), Masconomet, and Westford Academy also could make tournament runs.
In Division 3, reigning champion Weston returns senior Jared Fong (Gettysburg) in net and Joey Pasquale (Hartford) at attack, but coach Jim Wilcon expects a learning curve with so many new faces.
Instead, the favorite could be Dover-Sherborn, which returns All-American Billy Polk (Colby) at midfield and will hope junior Ryan Goodall can be an anchor between the pipes in his first year as a starter.
“We’re young on defense, but all these seniors have a really bad taste in their mouths after last year,’’ said coach Brian McLaughlin.