East Greenwich (R.I.) lax reloads and rebuilds

How do you spell “four-peat?”

Rhode IslandThat’s what the East Greenwich boys’ lacrosse team is seeking this season, a fourth consecutive Division II state championship (along with a fourth consecutive Division II-South title).

Prior to games of April 8, the Avengers had won 38 consecutive games before suffering an 8-5 loss to South Kingstown.

“Staying there is the tougher one because the target is on your back,” said EG coach Brian Trapani, who’s in his sixth season as the Avengers head coach. “Your first (championship), nobody expects you to be there. Once you’re there, you’re expected to be there.

“It’s tougher to repeat.”

How tough?

For starters, East Greenwich graduated 15 players from last season’s team and returns only five seniors.

“Of the five, only one has most of the experience, our captain Sam Feinberg,” Trapani said of his midfielder who scored two goals and assisted on five in the Avengers’ season-opening, 10-6 victory over Middletown. “The others didn’t see as much playing time. The only returning varsity starters are (defender) Max Gessman and Sam Feinberg.

“The seniors we lost had won three championships and were a great group of young men.”

Among others, Trapani is expecting a quartet of players to help plug the holes created by the Avengers who graduated: goalie Cam Waitkin (who replaces First Team All-Division II-South goalie John Trutza), attack Brendan Jordan and midfielders Joe Madden and Cam Ciancolo.

“Cam is a varsity-level quality goalie who was behind a great goalie (Trutza),” said Trapani. “He’s very talented and we look for two good years out of him.

“Madden is a sophomore and he’s grown. He’s matured and gotten bigger and stronger and already he’s making his mark. He’s way ahead of where he was last year.

“(Ciancolo) is growing,” continued Trapani. “He has a good, hard shot as a crease middie. His confidence and maturity on the field are amazing. He’s really been impressive.”

Arguably the most surprising Avenger has been freshman Brendan Jordan, who scored three goals and assisted on two during an 11-7 victory over Prout.

“He’s one of only three ninth graders we’ve had who’ve been starters,” said Trapani. “He’s one of the best attackers we’ve ever had.”

At the risk of stating the obvious, a lacrosse team doesn’t win 38 consecutive games before losing one just by throwing its sticks on the field.

“I think the primary reason is the growth of the youth program that develops more players that are higher skilled,” said Trapani. “When I first got here, we had few players that had played the sport. Now, almost all have played. There’s a base line of passing and catching.

“The youth program is probably the number one factor. It helps develop the pool of talent.”

That “pool of talent” is reflected in the number of boys who’ve come out for the team.

“In 2009, we had 26 players and last year we had 65,” said Trapani. “Just the amount of boys interested in the game has grown so the youth program has had a major impact on us.

“I also have to credit my assistant coaches, Chris Callahan, Brian Hennessey, Bruce Roberts and Ethan Zink (who was the MVP of the 2012 championship game). The fact we have four to five coaches means we can cover down on the boys and provide good coaching.”

Because, as Trapani alluded to, the Avengers are playing with a target on their collective backs, he expects the winning streak to end at some point during the season – which in this case was Tuesday against the Rebels.

“I would think there’s going to be some pride in whoever beats us first,” he said. “We were losing at halftime to Middletown and they were whooping and hollering as was Prout.

“We get that everywhere we go – not that we’re that great but that we haven’t lost. We’re probably going to lose a game or two. We’re building a JV team into a varsity team so I wouldn’t be surprised if we lose a game or two.”

Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y., he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.