With sixteen seniors on the roster, half of them returning All-Sunset League selections - including two coming back with All-America credentials - the Newport Harbor Boys Lacrosse team appears poised for a third-straight league championship.
And that’s about the last thing Head Coach Mark Todd wants to hear at the outset of the 2020 season. For a number of reasons.
“We were fortunate to be two-time undefeated Sunset League champions (with this senior class instrumental in the accomplishment), we missed the one year before and we won it the four years before that. But we can’t rest on our laurels,” explained the 2019 league Coach of the Year, now in his tenth year at Harbor. “That’s all behind us,”
“The biggest challenge for us this year is focusing on the future and not the past,” Coach Todd emphasized. “That is the curse of every successful team. I think the kids have a lot of positive expectations and we can only fulfill them by doing the work, not expecting it’s entitled to us.”
Seniors Rhett Farmer and Aidan Goltz head the tight crew of experienced and talented players in their final season at Harbor. Both are top scoring threats; Farmer from his slashing position on the attack line and Goltz pressuring with dynamic creativity from midfield. Both are returning two-time All-Sunset League selections with extended recognition beyond local excellence. Goltz earned a nod on the USLacrosse All-America squad after his junior season and Farmer was likewise recognized as a USLacrosse Academic All-American (he sports a 4.5 GPA).
While in the spotlight, Farmer and Goltz have not shined alone. Playing together since middle school, the core of senior talent includes fellow returning first-team all-leaguers Hutton Wooters (midfield), Michael Morrison (midfield/faceoff), and Jack Whelan (defense) along with returning second-teamers Jackson Sawall (midfield/attack), Henry Elliott (defense), and Tyler Freund (midfield).
“Aidan and Rhett get all the attention, but make no question about it; Mike Morrison and Hutton Wooters on that midfield line - pick your poison, anyone of them can beat your best defender.”
Not to be overlooked are dependable attack man Bennet Cox, midfielders Riley Aust and Joshua Todd ahead of the exceptional play of senior goaltender Garret Rovazzini. He works the crease behind standout defensemen Michael McGrath and Johnny Brigandi alongside Whelan and Elliott.
Yet with the wealth of experienced talent comes a dose of cautious concern.
“The vibe is common with every large senior class,” Coach Todd extended. “The larger senior classes tend to say ‘we got this, we’re gonna be on cruise control’. Whereas the smaller senior classes have a greater sense of desperation,” he said, offering his experienced insight. “Like last year, where we only had six seniors, and they were like, ‘look, we gotta make this happen’. The onus to lead is greater upon them when the urgency is there.”
“You have to put the work in. What I’d like to do is really see our seniors step up and lead… and lead by example more than anything.”
Integrating excellence among the emerging talent will be the key to the Sailors’ 2020 ultimate success. Reaching the goal will largely depend on the development of underclass talent.
Juniors Luke Barnes (attack), Joe Knipp (midfield), Will Patterson (midfield), Charlie Durante (midfielder), and Troy Kennedy (defensive mid) are expected to make strong contributions. The 2020 squad will also look for strong support from sophomore Noah Foigelman along with senior Brendan Duffy on defense, with talented junior Jerome Snyder the key backup goaltender.
“Those guys are all going to be significant impact players for us,” Coach Todd said. “They’re all going to get a lot of good playing time and I expect them to do a lot of good stuff for us.”
Defending the Sunset League title is certainly one of the top priorities, yet the NHHS lacrosse goal is higher again in 2020.
“We need to beat teams like Foothill and St. Margaret’s to be where we want to be. They were in the OC championship game last year,” Coach Todd expressed when pressed for his true CIF expectations.
A strategically tough schedule to open the season begins with Servite on the road Tuesday night, February 25th.
- Matt Morrison