HOOSICK, N.Y. >> Despite graduation a full contingent of seniors last season, Hoosick Falls boys lacrosse coach Mark Marquart still has a lot of talent in his arsenal.
The Panthers graduated eight seniors off of last season's 6-9 squad, including Jake Bakaitis, Damon Dubois, Mark Hackett, Logan Hoyt, Chad Miner, Chris Scheilding, Nick Schrom and Charles Whitman.
But Hoosick Falls has a handful of returners and more than 20 players on the roster.
"What's nice now is that the youth program is sending up players that are ready to play," said Marquart, who's in his fourth season, the same amount of time as the Panther program has been at the varsity level. "Their bodies might not be physically as big as you'd like, but the stick skills are coming along rather than a blank slate or one who is starting brand new."
Attacker Noah LaBarge is one of the few returners coming back this season as well as attacker Guy Milliman, midfielder David Everard, defender Sean Yeung and goalie Mike Sprague.
"Our returners will have to step up and fill some huge gaps," Marquart said. "They've put in the time to work with the new guys."
"The returners have been vocal leaders [in pre-season], we've gotten to the point where I don't have to break down every play, the captains step up," Marquart said. "It's been a transition — it can be hard for them to be a lead because we had so many guys like that last year, it's new for them, they are feeling they're way through it."
LaBarge said the non-winter has been a major help because the team has been able to get outside right away.
"We're still a new program and so trying to teach the game is much better on the field then in the gym," LaBarge said.
Milliman echoed his older teammate, also saying that playing varsity basketball this winter gives him an advantage on the lacrosse field.
"It absolutely helps because I'm more prepared for the pace and speed of the game," Milliman said.
On defense, Yeung will lead with Sprague playing his first full season in goal after splitting time with Scheilding last season.
"We're focusing more on going from man to zone, working on fighting for groundballs," Yeung said. "Our defense is pretty strong so far."
Some of the new players run the gamut. One is senior Remington Hickey, a three-sport athlete, playing lacrosse for the first time, junior Devon Fitzpatrick and freshman Aaron Harman.
"It's not going to be one guy that steps up, we're trying to develop them all," Marquart said. "It comes down to what they all are going to bring to the table. Rem has no lacrosse experience, but he's been coached so well and is so athletic, the transition hasn't been that hard for him. Aaron's a very good athlete, a big kid, strong and you can't teach size. Fitz has transitioned well from football to lacrosse and that's a testament to [football] coach [Ron] Jones. They don't get frustrated and they're always trying to get better."
Hoosick Falls is in Class C with Glens Falls, Greenwich and Cambridge and the Panthers hope to be in that group before the end of the season.
"Cambridge and Greenwich are the monsters, they're coached very well," Marquart said. "When you replace a lot of guys, it can be tough to rebound, it's just a matter of stepping up. I'm sure we'll have growing pains, but we'll lean on those returning guys."
Hoosick Falls' opening game is Tuesday at home against Maple Hill at the Helft soccer complex.