The 2018 Wildcats boys lacrosse team is young, quick and talented and, so far this season, the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division champions have been hitting the field hard.
The Wildcats went 13-5 on the season in 2017 and have won 36 games and two OAA titles in the last three years.
So far, the team is 4-6 overall on the 2018 season.
Oxford lost 19 seniors in 2017, according to Head Coach Greg Normand, and have returned only nine letter winners this year to its team of 20 student-athletes.
“We’re really young,” Normand said. “We lost a lot of senior leadership a year ago and initially that will hurt us, but this group is fast and really talented. It will take some time for the group to jell and mature.”
Normand said he has been most impressed with the roster’s ability to absorb and learn from making mistakes.
“We tell our kids all the time to embrace failure because it’s the only aspect of improvement that leads to success,” he said.
The Wildcats’ team strength this season lies in its attacks, according to Normand.
Among the team’s stand-out athletes, Normand described sophomores Logan Vachon and Matt Pullman, along with juniors Thomas Wandrie and Collin Grzanka, as “the best four attacks he’s coached since his St. Mary’s team made it all the way to the MHSAA state finals in 2009.”
Normand said Vachon, who doubles as a face-off specialist, could have the Wildcats’ hardest shot and will likely attract college coaches this year, while Matt Pullman, who’s been installed as the team’s X-attack (a point guard-like position) will quarterback the offense.
Newcomer J.J Poolton, who is “crazy-skilled,” according to Normand, will join Seth Grove as the Wildcats’ other attacks.
“J.J. and Seth will work the crease this year… don’t be surprised if J.J. becomes a star before our eyes. He has moves that I can’t coach and when the confidence catches up with the talent – look out,” Normand said.
Although the midfield this year is the team’s youngest group of players, Normand described them as “athletic” and said he looks forward to watching them progress as the season continues.
At midfield, senior captain Max Parsons will lead the Wildcats this year.
“(Max is) ready to lead. We will be putting a great deal of pressure on Max because he can handle it,” he said.
Joey Bertacini, Nathan Watt and left-hander Nathan Call, all sophomores, will carry the ball at midfield for the Wildcats.
On the team’s defense is returning goaltender Geo DeBlasi, a junior netminder. DeBlasi, an Oxford Virtual Academy student, could be among the best goalies in the state, according to Normand.
“Geo will be the backbone of our defense this year because he’s a great goaltender but, most importantly, he’s coming at this with some sound experience. He knows what to expect and will be a great mentor for the new guys,” Normand said. “We expect big things from Geo.”
Oxford’s close defense will be led by returning junior Sam Barrott, who will play an important part of the Wildcat defense generally drawing the opponents’ best offensive threat.
Next up, the Cats will face Troy on May 3 at Troy High School.