T-Birds Trying to Build Something Special
Senior captain defender Jamison O’Brien and the North Branford boys’ lacrosse squad are aiming to develop a foundation for success this year after missing out on the 2020 spring season. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain midfielder Ethan Raymond scored two goals and also had an assist when the Thunderbirds earned a 10-6 home victory versus North Branford on April 27. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain midfielder Matt Pederson and the North Branford boys’ lacrosse team want to pick up some more victories as they enter the second half of their season. Pictured in the background is fellow senior captain Dylan DiMeo, a defender. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Everyone on the North Branford boys’ lacrosse team was pumped up when the T-Birds heard the news that they would be competing in 2021. As North Branford plays through its spring season, Head Coach Dave Carpenter is relying on a strong senior class to help the team succeed this year, while also building a foundation for success in future campaigns.
North Branford stands at 3-5 on the season after winning one of its three games last week. The T-Birds started off the slate by claiming a 10-6 victory versus Morgan before taking a 14-7 loss to Valley Regional and a 13-6 defeat versus Westhill.
On April 27, North Branford hosted Morgan and prevailed by a 10-6 score at Colafati Field. Senior captain midfielder Matt Pederson and junior midfielder Jake Palumbo both scored three goals for the T-Birds in the victory. Senior captain midfielder Ethan Raymond had two goals with an assist, while sophomore midfielder Elias Defaranos scored a goal to go with an assist. Senior attacker Tyler Waligroski also scored a goal for the T-Birds, who received five saves in net from sophomore goalie Dradon Brindisi.
North Branford was coming off of back-to back losses when it faced Morgan. Coach Carpenter said that he was impressed by his team’s performance in the win over the Huskies.
“After having a couple one-goal losses the week before, it was nice to get back into the win column,” said Carpenter. “The kids played hard, their stick skills were going well, things were firing on all cylinders. We got out to an early lead, held on to it, and played well.”
Two days later, North Branford hosted Valley Regional and dropped a 14-7 decision to the Warriors. Junior midfielder Joseph Marra scored two goals, and Raymond had a goal with two assists for the T-Birds. Pederson added a goal and an assist, while senior attacker Colby Martinik, Defaranos, and sophomore midfielder Ryan Izzo netted one goal apiece. Senior midfielder Nicholas Poulin and senior defender Ryan Vaspasiano each had an assist. Brindisi made seven saves in the game.
The T-Birds finished their week by taking a 13-6 road loss to Westhill on May 1. Junior attacker Jake Saldutti led the way with two goals and two assists for North Branford. Marra, Raymond, Palumbo, and sophomore midfielder Jace Kamienski all scored a goal. Brindisi made 21 saves as North Branford took its second loss of the week.
“While they’re both similar scores, we were in the Valley game a lot more. At one point in the third quarter, it was 9-7. We were right there. As the game went on, we had to press on defense and gave up a few easy goals. It was a lot closer than the score indicated,” Carpenter said. “Against Westhill, I was confident it was going to be a tight game. We gave up five straight at the end of the first quarter. We weren’t able to get back onto it.”
North Branford is being led by four senior captains this season. The T-Birds’ captains are defenders Dylan DiMeo and Jamison O’Brien, along with midfielders Raymond and Pederson. Initially, DiMeo and O’Brien entered the season as captains. However, after watching Raymond and Pederson during the preseason, Coach Carpenter realized that all four seniors bring the type of leadership that the T-Birds need.
“I started off with Jamison and Dylan. They had done a lot of work and helped organize offseason programs. They are very instrumental in keeping the guys together and keeping them active,” said Carpenter. “Once we started practice, Matt and Ethan stepped up and were vocal leaders from day one, whether it was making guys accountable or explaining how to pass and catch to a kid who has never played before. They did a great job throughout the preseason.”
North Branford’s senior class also features Waligroski, Poulin, and Martinik, along with defender Zachary Abbagnaro and defender/midfielder Nicholas O’Rourke. As Carpenter looks to continue building the North Branford boys’ lacrosse program, he feels proud of all of his seniors for being strong leaders who are developing a positive culture among the underclassmen.
“It’s a good senior class. Some seniors are playing valuable time after never really playing varsity. The last time we had a varsity season was their sophomore year,” Carpenter said. “A lot of these seniors have stepped into roles after not really playing any varsity time. It’s a great group of seniors. They’re a great group of kids and always do what’s best for the team. They are always a great help with the new guys.”
Carpenter has also been pleased with the play of freshman Luke Blomster. An attacker, Blomster is already starting at the varsity level for North Branford.
Coach Carpenter said his sophomores are all gaining valuable experience this year and appear poised to make a big impact as they become better lacrosse players. North Branford’s sophomore corps includes Kamienski, Brindisi, Defaranos, and Izzo, in addition to attacker Nathan Tranquilli; midfielders David D’Onofrio, Mason Provencher, and Ian Kamienski; and defenders Dominick Langelo, Dylan Burwell, and Tyler Serenson.
Following the Westhill game, Coach Carpenter told his athletes that he wanted them to look at the second half of their schedule as a new season. He wants the team to start fresh and focus on improving every day. Carpenter said that he’s looking for the T-Birds to win out the rest of the year, but he knows that they still have to take it game by game and day by day.
“The season starts now, and our goal is to go undefeated. Take it one game at a time. We have to win every game, just one at a time,” said Carpenter. “We’re not thinking about how many wins we have to get to states or what we have to do to get into the Shorelines. Just win each day, and we’re going to have a great season. I think we’re going to finish strong.”