Thursday, March 29, 2018

2018 Central Mass Lax Previews: The Grafton Indians

By Andrew Bowman (@andrew_bowman5)

Our previews of some of the best lacrosse teams in Central Mass continues today with the reigning Division 3 Central/West champion Grafton Indians. New contributor Andrew Bowman, a Grafton native who currently attends St. John's High School in Shrewsbury, takes a look at this program which become one of the state's best in recent years.

Grafton Indians

Head Coach:​ Alan Rotatori
Player Captains: ​Matt Nicalek (G), Jimmy Donadio (M), Steve Rotatori (A)
Last Year’s Finish: ​Division 3 State Runner-Up
First 3 Games: ​Ipswich (4/2), @Nipmuc (4/5), @Northbridge (4/10)

Last year, Grafton’s season ended in heartbreak. The Indians lost in the state championship for the 3rd straight year, this time to Ipswich by a single goal. This disappointment came after defeating Dover-Sherborn in the state semifinals, a team that had defeated the Indians in the previous two state finals.

Now, despite another year of losing star players to graduation, Grafton is looking to get right back to where it has been the past three years.

All three of Grafton's current captains were quick to mention that this year's team is using the past losses as motivation. The Indians kick off their season on their home turf with a rematch of the Division 3 state final against Ipswich.

“We’re probably as prepared as Ipswich is," Grafton coach Alan Rotatori said of the looming state final rematch. "The weather hasn’t been awesome. It would have been ideal if we could get a good two weeks on the turf, but when I originally looked at the schedule, I saw that as beneficial for us because it would get us motivated very early in the season.”

Grafton has a tough non-league schedule, with games against Division 3 powers Ipswich and Cohasset, along with Division 2 Central Mass mainstays St. John’s (Shrewsbury), Algonquin, and Shrewsbury.

“It’s good to have those games on the schedule. It helps us prepare for those big games where we are under pressure,” Rotatori added.  “We asked for those games, and I love the fact that we were received by those teams because they want to play us.”

On offense, Grafton once again looks very strong and diverse.

“The midfield is deep," senior captain Jimmy Donadio said. "We got two really solid lines and we’re returning a lot of players.”

The attack is led by senior captain Steve Rotatori, who is joined by senior Tyler Hart and sophomore Jack Gurney, a “deadly trio” as Steve put it.

The most interesting question for Grafton will be its defense. The Indians lost all 3 starting poles from a season ago, and will look to build up a new defense this season around returning star goalie Matt Nicalek.

“Three new defense and no one returning, I guess you could say it will be a learning process,” said Nicalek, a University of Tampa commit and senior captain.

All three captains and Coach Rotatori mentioned how the defense is better than they expected throughout practice.

Coach Rotatori has always praised his team for having a “next guy up” mentality. Especially this year, he applauded players for switching positions to fill in the gaps on defense.

“We’re going to make somebody," Rotatori said. "It’s the Grafton style, and the players buy into that, seeing that their opportunity comes.”

While winning a state title is the ultimate goal, it’s safe to say that Coach Rotatori doesn’t want to win the state title once and never go back again. Rather, the longtime coach has built a perennial contender, that can re-load with the best programs in the state and compete for championships annually.

“We want to take pride in the fact that we are striving to be [in the state finals] all the time. We’re not a one-hit-wonder, we want to be a consistent program every single year.”

Look for Grafton to continue that consistency this year.

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