Season preview: Boys’ lacrosse uncertain yet optimistic about future

    Senior midfielder Owen Staiger prepares to throw the ball. In this game, Paly defeated Woodside High School, 17-12, at 7 p.m. on March 4, 2015 at Palo Alto High School. Photo by Emma Chiu.

    Senior midfielder Owen Staiger prepares to throw the ball in a game against Woodside High School last March. The Vikings defeated Woodside, 17-12. Photo by Emma Chiu.

    Amidst the deficit of 14 seniors and the loss of dominant private schools in its league, the Palo Alto High School boys’ lacrosse team (1-0, 0-0) is teetering on the brink of success as it adjusts to new team dynamics.

    As the Vikings take on Sacred Heart Prep at 7 p.m. Thursday at home, they entertain high hopes after defeating Archbishop Mitty High School, 12-10 in a non-league game. Sophomore Hayden Libbey said the game was challenging, and required a strong effort.

    “It was a pretty hard-fought game,” Libbey said. “We don’t have many players in total, so it was a lot of running for all of us.”

    With this win under the belt, head coach DJ Shelton predicts the team dynamic to change, as the team is no longer so senior-heavy.

    “It was definitely a veteran group that had carried the program,” Shelton said. “This year, we have more of a complete team and it’s a little bit more balanced in age. The kids seem to be less focused on hierarchy and more about development.”

    Senior captain Zach Levitan also stressed that the team this year will be drastically different.

    “Our whole defense has changed,” Levitan said.

    Junior Matt Seligson echoed Levitan’s sentiments, but emphasized that there are some up-and-coming players that will make an impact on the field.

    “We lost a lot of firepower this year,” Seligson said. “ We’ve got some promising talent in sophomores Hayden Libbey, who’s been doing really well, and Christian Rider.”

    In addition to the younger players, this year’s squad has several seasoned players that will be instrumental to Paly’s success, according to Shelton.

    “[Captains] Jon Rogers and Zach Levitan are just two of our outstanding players,” Shelton said. “[Juniors] Matt Seligson, Cole Tierney, and Quintin Valenti are some other players to look out for.”

    Last year the team finished 13-8 overall, 9-6 in league, and advanced to the semifinals of the SCVAL playoffs before being defeated by Menlo-Atherton High School. Now that fewer private schools, which have historically fielded strong lacrosse programs, are competing with Paly in the De Anza league, Shelton believes that the team has a shot at winning the league title.

    “We are looking to win league this year, and I think that’s a reality,” Shelton said. “All the private schools are gone, so while we play those teams, they’re not in our league. League is becoming a very strong option for us.”

    Despite the loss of the seniors and a smaller roster, the team seems optimistic about its chances for success this season.

    “I don’t think there’s anything that really stands in our way [of winning league], except ourselves,” Shelton said.

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