Many students find their athletic passions by trying different sports at earlier grade levels, including middle school.
David Serughetti, new head coach of the North boys’ lacrosse team, hopes he can build such a reputable tradition with the team that middle school lacrosse players at Community and Grover will want to continue the sport in the district’s own high schools, and not at places like Princeton Day School, Peddie, and Hun.
Serughetti already has many factors working in his favor — a team returning 21 seniors who were part of last year’s Mercer County champions and a 17-3 record under former coach Steve Czelusniak; experience coaching not only at the freshman and junior varsity level, but also at the middle school level; and a strong understanding of his individual players’ strengths.
After all, this year’s juniors and seniors were seventh and eighth graders at Community just a few years ago. “I was already familiar with what their strengths were when they were younger, and I can see how they’ve progressed over the years,” said Serughetti, who previously coached at the school.
This made his transition into the head coach position at North easier because he was able to determine roles on the field as opposed to having to learn each player’s strengths and weaknesses as the team prepares to open on Thursday, April 1, against Hun.
“The team has been heading in a really great direction,” said Serughetti. “Last year, they won the first Mercer County Tournament. They had the best record in school history. I want to take what [Czelusniak] has been able to accomplish and start setting that as a standard of what North lacrosse should be. We want to have a sense of tradition come into play.”
“I want to get kids excited about wanting to go play lacrosse at High School North and South,” Serughetti added. “That’s another goal I have — that kids will have something to look forward to when they’re done with their middle school career in the district.”
Serughetti grew up in Perth Amboy. His father was a social worker, and his mother was a secretary in the Perth Amboy public school district. He attended St. Joseph High School in Metuchen, where she played on the lacrosse team. He continued playing lacrosse at Roanoke College.
But his love for lacrosse came at a younger age. “Back in the 1980s, it was an extremely nice sport, so it was nice to play something different and more unique,” said Serughetti. “I was also a soccer player as a kid — I liked the ball movement up and down the field, but I liked the fact that it was also a contact sport.”
After Roanoke, he attended graduate school at Rutgers and subsequently landed a job as a teacher and coach in Flemington. “During the course of college, I worked at camps during the summer,” he said. When the coaching position was offered in Flemington, Serughetti said he felt “this is something I can do for three months out of the year as opposed to a few weeks at the camp.”
From Flemington Serughetti moved on to Basking Ridge, where he taught and coached, before making his way to WW-P. “I came down here as a change of venue for a job,” he said. “This is my 15th year teaching. I made my rounds around the state; I finally found a home.”
When he arrived at WW-P nine years ago, Serughetti coached for six years at Community Middle School, where he teaches. Two years ago, he began coaching junior varsity for a season before coaching freshmen last year.
He said he is expecting a promising season this year. There are 21 seniors returning to the team, and eight of the team’s 10 starters from last season are returning. “It’s a group that has been in place for a couple of years already,” he said.
The team’s captains this year are seniors Killian Brakel and Drew Kenavan. Brakel will start at goalie for the third straight year, while Kenavan will start his third straight year at midfield.
Among the team’s other key players are Brandon Worrall and Andrew Lalli, both of whom are starting their third year as defensemen. Todd Petrone and Andrew Washuta are two of the team’s strong attackmen, Serughetti pointed out.
“I would say that defense is probably our strongest,” he said. “That’s the unit that’s the most intact from last season. But we do have probably a stronger midfield this year than we did last year; we have more depth this year. We have a couple of sophomores that only played at the freshman level last year who have shown a lot of progress.” Those players are David Sandberg, Brendan Kenavan, and Ben Bugge.
The team looking to try to repeat as county champs, “but we know it’s going to be tough. South is always tough, and it looks like Princeton is going to be stronger than they were last year.”
But an even bigger goal for the team this year is to progress further into the states, said Serughetti. “For the past two years, we made it to the quarterfinals in Group III. Our goal is to get past that quarterfinal and into the semifinal, so we can start to experience what it’s like to play a game at the championship level.”
Rounding out the team are seniors Lenny Bellezza, Tim Biletta, Dan Brzezynski, Shane Bulk, Ravi Chelluri, Patrick Gallagher, Mike Leahy, Brian Lee, Evan Pettus, Paul Thompson, Stephen Thompson, Marc Raziano, Sean Reed, and Jack Kalinowski. Rounding out the juniors are Jake Slonaker, Harrison Washuta, and Jake Barz.