Boys lacrosse program builds on pipeline to collegiate ranks
Updated 1:39 pm, Tuesday, October 9, 2012
A coach's handprint on a program doesn't always show just on the field.
Of all the responsibilities that fall on Paul McNulty's to-do list on a daily basis with Staples' boys lacrosse program, he says that preparing his players for college ranks near the top.
"That might be the best part of the job," McNulty said, "to help them find a school that they like, and that the coach likes them. The coaches will evaluate them as players and then they'll call me before they do a little more recruiting on them, as kind of a character check.
"There's a lot of players out there and they can really pick their own."
The college recruiting trail again found its way to Staples and McNulty will send a strong contingent of seniors to the next level. Attack Colin Bannon, midfielder Joey Zelkowitz, defenders Lance Lonergan and Quinn Mendelson, and goalie James Hines all recently made their college commitments and will carry on a strong tradition.
"It's very easy to be very positive about Staples players," McNulty said. "They're the kind of players that coaches are looking for--good players and good personalities."
Mendelson has made his verbal commitment to Boston University, a first-year program at the Division I level, and said he will sign his Letter of Intent in the next few months. Bannon (Endicott), Hines (Clark), Lonergan (Union) and Zelkowitz (Middlebury) all recently decided on Division III schools.
For the five seniors, the leap to college will admittedly be rewarding but it's also somewhat bittersweet. Most of the players first stepped on the field together in grade school with Westport PAL and they've helped keep Staples' program among the upper echelon in the state.
"I've been playing with the same guys since fourth or fifth grade. It's good to see all those guys playing in college," Lonergan said.
Since McNulty took over at Staples in 2009, the program has consistently churned out talent to the next level. McNulty said that he's sent 16 players, including this year's crop, to play in college in his time with the program.
He is hoping this year's class, as well as the ones before it, will inspire the program's players at all levels.
"Hopefully I can use those boys in this class and the other classes as examples," McNulty said. "First of all, get good grades and your list of schools will be much longer. The more you work and play and develop your skills, your lacrosse list will be longer."
For the five players in this year's class, several factors went into the decision-making process for their respective schools. Most of them decided based on location, playing time and a general sense of comfort with the school's coaching staff.
Bannon, who made his decision last week, said the process was "very stressful" and he spent a lot of time with recruitments. He said he chose Endicott over Division I programs Denver and Siena, and Division III Gettysburg.
"I fell in love with the school," he said. "Beautiful campus ... loved the coach, kids were great."
There was a sense of relief for each of the players and all were satisfied with the decisions that they made.
Mendelson said that Boston immediately became his top choice when he learned that the school was elevating from a club program to Division I.
"It's a really unique opportunity," he said. "Especially a school like that where it's so steep in tradition with hockey, we have an opportunity to bring that to lacrosse. It's just really exciting."
Lonergan and Zelkowitz both called their decisions a "no-brainer".
"It's definitely going to be a big transition," Lonergan said. "From watching practices and games, it's definitely a lot faster. But it should be fun."
"Any way I can get on the field as an offensive midfielder or a defensive midfielder, I'm willing to do," Zelkowitz said.
Perhaps most importantly, the end of the recruitment process represented another achievement in a promising career for the players.
"It's always been a dream of mine so I just stayed determined and pushed myself pushed myself to follow my dreams," Hines said.
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