Expectations are always high before the Duxbury HS lacrosse season starts. No matter how many experienced seniors graduate every year, Coach Chris Sweet dips into the ranks of Duxbury Youth Lacrosse graduates and his teams never miss a beat.

After pummeling North Quincy, 23-0, in its season- opener last Thursday in Quincy, the Dragons face a far more formidable string of games over the next few days that started with yesterday’s homeopener against Mercer Island of Washington State. Mercer beat Duxbury two years ago in overtime and came east sporting a 6-1 record and the No. 2 ranking in Washington.

After Mercer continues its New England swing and heads to Maine, the Dragons will entertain Thayer Academy of Braintree at 4 p.m. on Thursday in preparation for Saturday’s big match at Harvard Stadium with the nation’s No. 1 ranked high school team in 2012: Garden City of Long Island, NY.

Garden City may not be the team they were last year after they lost to LaSalle HS in Pennsylvania this past week- end. But like the Dragons, GC is a perennial national pow- erhouse and promises to give Duxbury all it can handle this early in the season.

It’s a well-known fact that Duxbury graduated a slew of seniors that are now playing at every level of college lacrosse. In fact many of those grads have made college rosters without the playing time that many of their teammates earned, yet still displayed the skills needed to make an im- pression despite watching most of the games from the bench.

“We have a great group of seniors this year that are pretty talented athletes and lacrosse players,” said Coach Chris Sweet. “At this point, they just need more game experience and consistency. The talent is there, they just need to play more.”

Sweet was happy he could give all his players some minutes in the opener to get their feet wet before the trio of battles this week.

Three seniors who saw plenty of action last year and are being counted on to lead Duxbury in defense of its 2012 title are West Point- bound C.J. LoConte, Bobby O’Brien (Merrimack), and Duxbury’s most experienced player according to Sweet: Fairfield-bound defenseman Jay Walsh.

“We’ve got great leadership and they’re determined to get us to the finals again,” said Sweet.

If it happens it will be the Dragons’ twelfth straight appearance in the Division 1 championship game with their only two final losses coming by one goal versus Beverly and St. John’s Prep.

Getting to the finals could be tougher than in previous years. But Sweet is confident he has the players to make it happen again.

Joining LoConte and O’Brien up front will be junior Brendan Burke, brother of former Dragon James Burke, now playing at Penn State, and sophomore Mickey Fitzpatrick. The depth up front will come from junior Shayne O’Brien, junior Tanner Williams, junior Tyler Powers, and senior John Hig- gins.

While Sweet likes his front line, he thinks his defense and goaltending will be the determining factor in how the season goes.

“We’ll be a very well- balanced team. But I think our offense will be the slowest group to come around at the start of the season,” said Sweet. “But we’re athletic enough to play with the better teams.”

Sweet’s midfield will feature a line of senior Jack Sullivan, junior Trevor O’Brien, and junior Wes Quinzani, along with a second trio of senior Tucker Hannon, junior Nick Sisioan, and freshman Shayne Sullivan. Senior Zach Snelling, sophomore Matt Sharpe, and senior Peter Murphy will round out the third line, with senior Matt Mc- Cutcheon, junior James Hig- gins, and senior Tom Sarles adding to the Dragons’ depth.

While Sweet is relying on his defense and goaltending to get the job done, he’s more concerned about another aspect of the game that could go a long way in determining Duxbury’s success: face-offs.

it's one of the biggest concerns he has and is counting on sophomore defenseman Hunter Marston to solidify the position. 

"It's an odd skill. But a very important position, said Sweet. "We just need to improve upon that aspect of the game."

If Duxbury has a hard time getting possession it will have to rely on its defense that consists of Captain Jay Walsh, senior Jon Hurvitz, senior Marshall McCarthy and senior George Wood. Liam Stauss, Drew Dowling, and Chris Armstrong will also see playing time on defense while Brad Marcotte and Brendan Fitzgerald will display their defensive prowess as long-stick middies. 

While some have raved about the potential of sophomore goalkeeper Jack Corbett, it appears the starting slot is junior Nick Marrocco's to lose. 

"He's distinguished himself as the starter," said Sweet. "Corbett is a close second and if anything happens I have complete confidence in Jack to get the job done."

Sweet has heard the rumblings that his Dragons will be down this year after losing so many players. But he isn't buyign it one bit. 

"I really like this team. They are competitive, athletic and skilled," said Sweet. "They have shown steady improvement in our scrimmages and I really think that we'll do well. We're willing to take our lumps at the start and we may even be over our heads in some games. But we're playing some of these teams now because we can and it makes us ready come tournament time."

Does the Duxbury coach fear it is payback time for all their opponents?

"We feel we always get their 'A' game anyways. I know some of the sharks are circling for blood. But we are going to surprise some people because we are not down like they think. Our kids are motivated by what they are hearing and they don't want to be the first team not to make the State finals."