Senator boys lacrosse ‘D’ seeks to dominate

Dover’s Cole Palmer, right (Delaware State News file photos)

DOVER — They’re all part of the same team, of course.

But that doesn’t mean there can’t be a healthy rivalry between the defense and the offense on Dover High’s boys’ lacrosse team.

After all, the two sides are constantly going up against each other in practice.

Dover head coach Michael Denman

“During practice it’s like there’s two different teams and everyone wants to win,” said Senators’ junior attack Thomas Gill. “It’s definitely very competitive when you have someone telling you, ‘Chill out guys, we’ve still got to play together all year.’”

Coach Michael Denman will take a little feistiness from his team as Dover gets ready to open the season on Friday with a 5:30 p.m. game at Indian River.

With an offense led by first-team All-Stater Will Niebrzydowski, Denman thinks the Senators should be able to score again this spring. But he’s also excited about the potential of Dover’s veteran defense as the program tries to improve on last year’s 11-5 campaign.

“These guys have been starting together for three years,” said Denman. “They’ve been in the weightroom all offseason. They’ve been working hard together. They’re really understanding the idea of team defense.

Nadeem Boggerty of Dover

“They’re taking responsibility when they make mistakes at practice. They get together and they fix it. They find out where was the mistake, why was the goal scored. When you’ve a guy like Niebrzydowski pushing the pipes at practice every day, it’s going to put some pressure on your defense every day.

“They take it personally,” he added. “Sometimes I’ve got to remind them, ‘Hey, he’s one of our guys. We need him.”

The nucleus of that defense is built around seniors Cole Palmer, a first-team All-Henlopen North pick last year, Jalen Adams, Naquan Peace and Nadeem Boggerty along with junior Elijah Lemon-DeJesus.

“A lot of us have been starting for four years now,” said Palmer. “You can’t recreate something like that. The chemistry is there. We all know each other, we all know the way we play.

“We’re looking forward to it.”

“We like to think we’re the backbone of this team,” said Adams. “Whenever we play well, the rest of the team plays well.

Jalen Adams

“We arguably have one of the best attacks in the state. It’s always good to go up against him. We talk trash to each other — we bring the best out in each other.”

“They just know how to play together as a unit,” said junior Anthony Tunnell, who takes over as starting goalie. “Whether they make mistakes or not, they always know what they’re doing. And it’s never just a one-man team. We’re all together.”

The Senators have strengthened their nonconference schedule this year, adding games with Appoquinimink and Rising Sun, Md. Denman said it was his players who really wanted to challenge themselves.

Of course, that also means more tests for Dover’s defense.

Last season, the Senators allowed an average of only 6.5 goals in their 11 victories but 13.4 goals in its five losses.

More specifically, Denman has reminded the Senators how many close games they lost a year ago. Three of their five losses came by just a single goal — including two losses to Delaware Military.

The season was capped off by a heartbreaking 15-14, overtime loss to DMA in the DIAA state quarterfinals. Dover squandered leads of 6-0 and then 14-11 going into the fourth quarter.

For a program that has made three straight tourney appearances — and five in the last seven seasons — that loss was a painful lesson they hope they can take something from.

“I believe we got too comfortable after we got a big lead and they came back,” said Adams. “We didn’t know how to respond to that. This year we have our core group of guys back. I think we’re going to be ready for that. We’re going to know what to expect now.”

“That’s a hard pill to swallow,” Palmer said about the state tournament loss. “It fuels a lot of what we’re trying to do this year. We just want to go back to that point and go even further than we did before.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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