It was a whirlwind season for St. Sebastian’s, which captured a share of the Independent School League championship for the second time in program history last spring, parlaying that into a semifinal run at the Geico High School National Tournament and a No. 8 national ranking by USA Today at the end of it all.
A talented, deep group — led by an offense that scored an average or nearly 15 goals per game — helped guide last year’s success, but much of that firepower has since moved on.
Losing the likes of John Piatelli (60 goals, 72 assists last year) and Parker Joyce (72 goals, 11 assists) may be enough to set some teams back a few years, but confident in its numbers, St. Sebastian’s fully intends to get back to where it was a year ago, even beyond.
And it’s easy to see where that optimism starts.
No wonder that the Arrows are such an assured bunch, with their entire starting defensive unit returning, led by five-star recruit Will Frisoli, and a unique situation in the cage.
“Last year, we had this really strange confluence of lucky breaks, some momentum and we ended up with all of the Division 1 commitments, and we had a lot of talent and a lot of depth,” coach Adam White said. “What we won’t have this year is maybe that type of depth, but we’ll hopefully have some younger guys stepping up and we’ll have some returners, especially on the back end.”
The Arrows shared the ISL title last season with Belmont Hill, which earned at least a share for the third consecutive year and fourth of the last five, and will be on the list of contenders in 2018, too.
The most notable returner to the St. Seb’s lineup is Frisoli, a five-star long-stick who is ranked by many recruiting databases as one of the top five juniors in the country.
Committed to play at Harvard — where he will join his brother, freshman midfielder Jack — his value becomes rightly inflated by his versatility. He can swap between LSM and close defense, depending on the given situation, allowing White, in return, to have more flexibility within his lineup.
“He’s really been one of our strongest defensemen for the past two years,” White said. “Ever since he was a freshman, he’s been going against the other team’s top player. We like him for his versatility. He can play LSM for us, he can play close defense; whatever that matchup is he can find that guy.”
“He’s always getting better; he’s an absolute workhorse,” junior goalie Mac Fotiades said. “If someone beats him, you know they’re not going to beat him a second time.”
If by chance an opponent can get by Frisoli, they’ll likely come face-to-face with the likes of senior captain Cam Martin, a Providence commit, or junior Peter Blake, who has committed to Penn. In starting together last year, the trio helped hold the opposition to 8.1 goals per game and fortified a bond along the way, which has trickled across the entire roster.
Behind them lies the two-headed beast in the cage, which is oft-times described more like a baseball pitching duo than a pair of lacrosse goalies.
The starter, tasked with first-half duties on game day, is senior Alex Gainey, a Johns Hopkins commit.
The closer, Fotiades, a junior who eventually is bound for Michigan, handles the second half.
Together, they have forged a symbiotic relationship — one in which many others might not be able to co-exist — based on being more concerned in the greater good than with their own.
“That is subject to change every season,” White explained. “We might switch the roles, make Mac the starter and Alex the closer. We may give them a whole game, where somebody plays the Wednesday game, somebody plays the Saturday game. Maybe somebody wins the starting role outright. But, those guys like playing every game, they like being involved and it seems to work.”
It’s been that way for the past two seasons and, unless something changes drastically, it is set to remain that way for the longtime friends, who are each other’s biggest cheerleaders.
“We both want the best for each other and we’re both competitors,” Gainey said. “We’re both pretty selfless and know we’re lucky to be on the field. There’s plenty of kids fighting every day just to be on the field.”
“We both love it and we both love each other,” Fotiades said. “We think it works out because we make each other better every day. He’s made me the lacrosse player I am today. … The situation we have is unique and pretty cool, to be honest, that we can both compete and help the team.”
Moving up the field, there are plenty of returning parts ready to help the Arrows remain firm in the ISL.
The midfield unit provides another level of maturity, when senior captains and Holy Cross commits Peter Murphy and Matt DeSisto line up alongside senior Will Plansky, a Maryland commit.
“They’ve also been playing together at Laxachusetts for a while now, too, so they have a connection,” Martin said. “All three are very skilled and have great lacrosse IQ. They are unselfish and help make the whole team one big unit.”
And though the offense lost some massive weapons, there are those who were able to learn from them, including junior Brian Piatelli, younger brother of John and a Cornell commit, and junior Mike Swirbalus, who will be heading to Duke in time.
“It’s not a one-person show on offense. It’s going to take everyone and a lot of strong ball movement to pass some of these great defenses in the ISL,” Martin said.
St. Seb’s plans to be fully prepared from the opening faceoff with powerhouse programs Navy Prep, Hill School (Ontario, Canada) and IMG Academy (Florida) on the beginning of its schedule to ensure the team is battle-tested once the ISL games start.
The Arrows know that even though it is a new season, there will be a greater target on them and that the fight to return to the top will be harder, but they are confident that they can keep things rolling
“It’s going to be difficult,” Martin said. “The ISL is always strong. All these teams have very good defensive and offensive players. Our team has that same win mindset and push-the-ball mindset that can help us if we stay ready for every game, one game at a time.”
“Our expectations are higher this year,” Gainey added. “We don’t want to take a step back, we want to take a step forward. We want to win the ISL, we want to go back and win nationals. We want to win.”