PLYMOUTH ─ Sundays are typically a chance for most high school student athletes to kick back and chill. For members of the Monomoy boys lacrosse program, though, Sundays are a time to head to the Plymouth Sports Complex and get their game on.
For much of the winter, a number of players who will soon take to the turf at Monomoy High have been making almost weekly trips to Plymouth to compete against opponents from myriad locales, including the Cape and Islands. What inspires them to make the drive off-Cape so often? The chance to play a game they love, and get better at it in the process.
“It's a long drive,” said senior goalie Nick Malone. “It's one of those things, though, that you know you have to do if you want the team to get better, and the kids that have consistently been coming up here, you can see the improvements they've made throughout the year.”
Malone said his game has already improved thanks to the intensity of indoor lacrosse.
“I've learned that you get shot on a lot more in indoor lacrosse as a goalie, and it's way easier to get better when you average 40-50 shots a game,” he said.
Overseeing the team in their quest for improvement is Monomoy Superintendent Scott Carpenter, whose son, Rory, a Monomoy freshman, is a lacrosse enthusiast. Carpenter stepped into the role of supervisor when Rory and other Monomoy players were invited to be part of a mostly Nauset team several months ago.
“The parents asked if Monomoy could put together a team to play this winter,” Carpenter said, adding that he volunteered to be the adult on the sidelines “to give our boys a chance to play together, and to establish that we can field enough boys to stand on our own and not have to be part of the Nauset team.”
Though reluctant to call himself a coach, Carpenter does offer insights and suggestions during games and in weekly emails he sends to the players praising them for smart play and advising them on what to work on going forward.
“I'm a teacher at heart, and I think that being a superintendent in a central office at times leaves one lacking, as you don't have as much meaningful one-on-one time with students,” he said. “It's been a chance to get to know 20 boys, what they're strong at, where their areas of growth are, and it's been really great to see them grow over the past few months.”
Carpenter said he was first introduced to lacrosse when he was roughly his son's age.
“I lived outside of Baltimore where lacrosse is sort of a hotbed,” he said. “From a young age I had been around lacrosse and had played it myself in my youth. It was what I really enjoyed in my youth and it's been something that was very big in the community we used to live in off-Cape. We've been taking my son to lacrosse since he was in kindergarten.”
To ensure that the future of MRHS boys lacrosse is solid, the group making the trek to Plymouth each week includes seventh graders eager to improve their skills, as well as those who were on last year's squad, the majority of whom are underclassmen. Carpenter said he's seen promising progress this winter.
“I think they've gelled as a team,” he said. “If I can have some role in helping this set of boys develop more camaraderie together, that's excellent. They're an absolutely fantastic group.”
Junior Connor Santoni is a lacrosse devotee and looks forward to the indoor games each week.
“It gives the team a chance to get together, play together, and get the chemistry we kind of didn't have the last two years,” Santoni said. “Having only our school is pretty good because now we can really learn. I think it's going to help us getting the chemistry down.”
Santoni said what is especially important about the winter program is that it allows new players to gain experience before the start of the season.
“Kids like Riley Demanche, he just started,” said Santoni. “He can play winter now so he doesn't have to delay his start until spring.”
“It's helped me understand the rules better,” he said. “Before I knew the basics of lacrosse, but this has helped me understand the rules and the strategies better. It also helped me know my teammates better. [When the season starts] I'll be able to jump right in rather than catching up.”
Both Demanche and Santoni appreciate the game's quick tempo, the fast pace, the ability to score, and that it's just fun.
“There are so many different ways to play the game of lacrosse,” said Santoni.
Another strong player for the Monomoy team is freshman Elijah Beasley, who has been balancing the Plymouth games with his junior varsity basketball schedule. Because Beasley loves lacrosse, he wouldn't have it any other way.
“Lacrosse is my main sport, probably what I'm best at,” Beasley said. “With the season coming up, we're probably going to be playing a varsity schedule, so I just wanted to get prepared for that to be ahead of everyone or at the same level.”
For the most part, the Monomoy group has spent the winter playing teams comprised of players from various school programs, most recently a mix of Pembroke and Nantucket players. Carpenter said that having nearly all of Monomoy's team involved in the winter program will go a long way toward their success this spring.
“I think they're going to have a really strong team this year, and keep getting better,” he said. “There's a lot of youth there and I think we've got a lot of talent to make up for our youth.”
Come the spring season, Carpenter will hand the reins over to new Monomoy boys lacrosse coach Bill McCullough, who has deep roots in the lacrosse world.
“He'll bring a lot of experience,” said Carpenter.
Meanwhile, Santoni has a message for the doubters:
“Monomoy lacrosse is definitely on the come-up.”