In his first year coaching the Wellington School boys lacrosse team, Patrick Donlon learned the benefits and challenges of working at a small school.

In his first year coaching the Wellington School boys lacrosse team, Patrick Donlon learned the benefits and challenges of working at a small school.

"There's a nice, family atmosphere at Wellington," said Donlon, whose team opens March 30 in the two-day Saltsburg (Pa.) Kiski Prep Invitational. "With 67 boys in the high school, we're the second smallest school with a lacrosse program.

"We have a lot of kids who might not get the chance to play varsity sports if they were at another school. We give them the opportunity to experience what it's like to be a part of a team."

The challenge is working with a small roster. The Jaguars had only 18 players try out this spring.

Wellington finished 6-11 last season, defeating Johnstown 15-2 in a play-in game of the Division II Central Region tournament before losing to eventual state champion Dublin Jerome 19-4 in the first round.

The Jaguars won their first four games last season but lost seven in a row when 2011 graduate and attacker Patrick Kim (hamstring), sophomore defender Max Schmitz (ankle) and junior midfielders Tyler Sharp (concussion) and Quinten Hendricks (mononucleosis) were sidelined.

"Injuries really affected us last year," Donlon said. "The team has been doing a lot of strength and conditioning and injury-prevention workouts (during the preseason to avoid that this season)."

In addition to Hendricks, the Jaguars return seniors William Young and Andrew Zody and juniors Jonathan Robinson and Jordan Tunnell on defense, and junior Russell Fast returns at goalkeeper.

"Our defense should be our strength this year," Donlon said.

Senior Anthony Becker, a three-year starter, and junior Jonathan Taylor, a two-year starter, lead the attack. In addition to Hendricks and Sharp, returning in the midfield are seniors Rick Smith and Jonathan Wobbrock, junior Tyler Blaine and sophomore William Edwards.

"(Becker, Smith and Taylor) are really some potent offensive players," Donlon said. "We're really young. We have to work on lacrosse IQ and our team chemistry. We're trying to feel things out. We have a lot of talent. We just have to figure out how to utilize everyone."

Donlon is hoping the trip to Kiski will help bring his team together as it did last year when the Jaguars went 3-0 in the tournament, defeating Morgantown (W.Va.) 10-5, Kiski 9-6 and Wheeling (W.Va.) Linsly 19-6.

"There's nothing else to do up there but play lacrosse," he said. "It really brought the team together (last season). If we're going to do well this season, we have to learn how to play as a team."