By Matt Jenkins
---- — The Beverly boys lacrosse team is expected to be right at the top of the Northeastern Conference standings again this spring. The Panthers return talent, leadership and experience — but they did suffer a major loss.
Anthony Nardella, head coach John Pynchon’s defensive coordinator, will not be back on the Beverly sidelines.
“That was a huge loss,” Pynchon agreed. “He’s not a player, but Anthony is a great coach.”
Beverly’s loss was Salem’s gain.
Nardella was named the Witches’ head coach in mid-February, taking over from former coach Mark Higley.
“I kind of heard about (the opening) through coach Pynchon. Someone emailed him asking about the job and neither of us knew (Higley) had stepped down,” Nardella said. “I investigated it a little bit and shot (Salem athletic director) Scott Connolly an email. I had an interview, met a few guys, then went to a second interview and was named head coach. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to get prepared.”
Pynchon feels that Nardella will make an immediate impact on the Salem program.
“It was only a matter of time before he got a (head) coaching job. I think they’re going to surprise a lot of people with how good they are,” Pynchon said. “I was really excited for him; he’ll do a great job. Our kids loved him and will miss playing for him, and I loved working with him.’
Nardella’s assistants bring even more Beverly flavor to the Witches. Former Panther standouts Dave Mock and Marshall Justras will be helping out Nardella, handling the defense while Nardella switches to the offensive side of the ball. Mock was Salem’s JV coach last year and Jutras, who played lacrosse at Salem State, helped out in Beverly a couple years ago.
“I work well with them,” Nardella said. “Those are guys I can trust when I’m down one end doing the offense. They’re good coaches and will handle the defense.”
Salem’s defense should be in pretty good hands with captains Alex Veloukas and John Kapnis returning to the lineup. Veloukas, a senior, and Kapnis, a junior, will be joined by senior midfielder Mitch Osgood as captains.
Seniors Matt Wilson, Jack Coelho and Billy Muse will help solidify the midfield crew, and junior Mat Muse should be a weapon on attack.
Nardella has also been pleased with the preseason performance of junior attack Peter Slattery, who transferred from B.C. High, and junior midfielder Craig Denehy.
Christian Costa saw some time in goal last year for Salem and he’ll take over the full-time duty this year as a junior.
“I’ve been looking for student-athletes who compete and leave it all on the field, guys who work hard every single day not only for their own personal benefit but also for the team,” Nardella said.
“I don’t think we have an All-American or a bunch of superstars, but we have a bunch who can compete day to day and if we play as a team, we can win a lot of games.”