On the final day of the season, the Huntington boys’ lacrosse team celebrated Senior Day at Blue Devil Stadium.
First year head coach Julian Watts spoke about each of the 11 seniors on the team, reviewing their contributions to the program over the years and giving them some advice on they prepare to move into the college ranks.
The players were joined on the field by their parents and, in some cases, by their siblings. Assistant coaches Andy Gutierrez and Joe Trezza stood alongside the team’s underclassmen as a crowd of about 100 listened as Watts asked the seniors to step into the spotlight, one by one.
The seniors included Mike Abbondandelo, Sam Bergman, Ryan Buxton, Gerard Federici, Ryan Gorecki, Alex LaBella, Chris Martin, Colby Martin, Anthony McDonald, Anthony Puglisi and Hugh Smith.
“It was an awesome experience playing lacrosse for Huntington,” LaBella said. “There were so many memories and friendships built that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”
Huntington fell short of its goal of reaching the playoffs this season, but no one associated with the team will ever forget the 15 games and all the practices the group experienced and the fun they had together.
“It’s sad to leave a program with such tradition and great history,” said Bergman, who shined as the team’s goalie. “I’ll never forget my years playing lacrosse for the Blue Devils and wouldn’t have wanted to play anywhere else if I could do it all again.”
There were a range of emotions displayed by Watts, the seniors and their parents as it came time to step into the spotlight before the rest of the team and the crowd.
“When I started playing, I was in kindergarten on Coach Buxton’s PAL team and I’ve played lacrosse every year since then,” Chris Martin said. “Being in lacrosse has always helped me create my best friendships. I didn’t know how much it meant to me until it was gone. I’m going to miss the long bus rides with my brothers and learning so many things about the game. Being a Blue Devil was huge and I wouldn’t give all those hours up for anything. From sitting in film to being at three hour practices wondering if it will go for four, there is nothing that I have more pride in than being a Blue Devil.”
Martin went through a tough senior year. He herniated a disk in February and then worked hard to get himself back into condition to play again. “Luckily I came back with about seven games left and was able to get two starts before my year was done,” he said. “I’ve never had so many emotions at once when I stepped out on the field between the pipes and it was just me and my defense on Senior Day. I finished my half, stepped off the field looked out and it hit me; that’s the last time I was ever going to strap up as a Blue Devil. I felt good that I had done everything I could for my brothers, the program and myself.”
Many of the Blue Devils intend to continue their playing careers in college. Some plan to play football in college while others will participate in club level sports.
“Playing lacrosse for Huntington was everything,” Gorecki said. “I’ve made the best memories and met some great guys that I am happy to call my brothers. It’s been a great four years on varsity. I wouldn’t have given it up for anything.”
The players presented a bouquet of flowers to their mother as their parents walked out on the as Watts spoke about each of the seniors.
“Huntington lacrosse has brought me joy and many memorable moments,” Abbondandelo said. “I am fortunate enough to say that I am a Blue Devil and I’m proud to have represented my town and school alongside my teammates and coaches.”
The Blue Devils are losing many starting players with the graduation of 11 seniors. It will be up to the team’s current underclassmen to fill the positions being vacated and step up their level of play.
“Huntington lacrosse has done a lot for me,” McDonald said. “I have been with some of these guys for a long time and it has built a strong bond between us. Huntington has a lot of tradition in lacrosse and I’m happy that I could say I am a part of that.”
Some of the players themselves got choked up knowing this marked the last time they will wear a Huntington uniform. Listening Watts talk about them and their career packed an emotional wallop for the teenagers.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Colby Martin said. “Starting off in HV Lax laid the groundwork and it took off from there. The support of family and coaches throughout the years made me who I am today. I wouldn't trade it for anything.”