Allentown lacrosse in rebuilding mode

Team looking to continue playoff run


Allentown High’s lacrosse team has made the NJSIAA tournament all seven years of its existence but it faces a rebuilding season this year with 10 players graduated from last year’s 8-8 team.

“We have a lot of spots open, a lot of opportunities,” said coach Michael Kays, starting his third season as the team plays this spring in the Colonial Valley Conference Valley Division, which will include boys lacrosse this year because of the growth of the sport.

“We’re young but that’s a good thing because they’re energetic and trying to prove their spots,” said Kays. “It’s nice to see the guys competing.”

Five starters return, including senior midfielder Matt Mueller, who scored a team high of 35 goals last year. Mueller scored both goals in the season opener on April 1, when Northern Burlington won, 11-2. Other starters back include senior Garrett Marshall and junior Tyler Freeman on defense and juniors Christopher Pepe and Scott Keleher on the attack. Keleher broke into the lineup in the latter part of last season.

There also is a good crop of talent moving up from the junior varsity team that had a .500 season last year.

But the biggest question mark is goalkeeper where Kays said it is an “interest- ing” situation with the graduation of three-year starter Bob Sopher, who is at Rutgers University, but not playing there. Sopher’s former Allentown teammate — Isaac Nissin, who played on defense for the Redbirds last season — also is at Rutgers. Also graduated and playing in college are Brendan Skeehan at Drew, Vince Rini at Pace and Brian Pope at Shenandoah.

“Together, they all came along pretty well but I don’t see a (clear cut) starter from there yet,” said Kays, who pointed to senior Carey Kells, junior Alex Smith and freshmen Ryan O’Leary and Kyle Sulit as four candidates. O’Leary played in goal in the season opener.

Trevor Toms, a senior, was moved from attack to defense to fill the spot opened by the departure of Nissin, a leading player last season.

Others who are starting or playing a lot include senior Trevor Bullock, juniors Trevor Fernes and Chris Johnston at midfield and junior defenseman Tyler Frederick.

“Our defense is improved, but our offense has more work to do,” said Kays. “Our strength is in our defense. The kids work well together offensively and defensively. We have good strength in our leaders.”

Assistant coaches Carl Schubauer and Keith Landolina are back from last season as the Redbirds look to surpass their best record in 2007 when they went 9-7.

Midfielders Chris Bartoli, a senior, Alex Legge, a junior, and junior defenseman James Kiczalis will look to help in that respect.