From Coach Brandon Pepe at the LAX Banquet:
Season recap – We knew coming in, we had a lot of experienced seniors, and that this had the makings to be a special season, perhaps even one of the best Amity Lacrosse teams in the history of the program.
Here’s how we ended up:
13-3 Regular season, the best in the history of the program
15-5 overall record – most wins since 2003
First appearance in SCC tournament since it moved to a 4 team format in 2010
First CIAC Tournament win since 2009
First Semi-Final appearance in Class L – which is the cream of the crop for HS lacrosse in the COUNTRY!
In 20 games we scored 217 goals (4 off the Amity record in a single season), while opponents scored only 121 – both major improvements over last year
Goalies had a combined save % of 64.2% which is excellent (like batting .340 in baseball)
Coach Brandon Pepe addresses the 2014 Amity Lacrosse team.
Last year we set the bar pretty high – we wanted to go from 6 wins to 10. Ultimately we ended up one game short. This year we didn’t have a number in mind, My personal goal as a coach which was stated at our preseason meeting on March 5th was to beat the tier 1 teams in the SCC, to get a home playoff game, And to win a playoff game. Well (we beat Guilford, Cheshire, Xavier, got the 5th seed in Class L, so we got our home playoff game, we won 2 games in the playoffs, nearly a third). But those were just my personal goals for the program.
About half way through the season we went through a tough stretch where we lost 2 close games, and were not playing well. We met as a team in the health room. The coaches left the room and let the players decide what their goals were the rest of the way, and we told them to write them down.
There were about a dozen things written on the board when the coaches returned, some were not exactly quantifiable. But, the day before our semi-final game against Staples we were watching some film, and I had taken a picture of what they wrote down at their player only meeting a month before, and was able to show them how this team had accomplished everything on their list, and had just two remaining goals that were still alive:
1) To play for a championship, and 2) to hang a banner.
While they did not accomplish these goals, as a coach it was such a pleasure to see them play together as a team, and I am so proud of all that they did accomplish, and how they fought to go out as one of the best teams in the history of the Amity Lacrosse Program. Their goals were alive until the very end.
The 2014 LAX Seniors at the team banquet.
With a successful season, many individual players received accolades and awards:
ALL SCC – Joe Choiniere, Midfield FIRST TEAM
Tyler Burns, Mid – Jake Milner, Attack – Nick Wright, Defense SECOND TEAM
NH Register ALL Area Team – Tyler Burns, Midfield – Joe Choiniere (Most Valuable Player)
US Lacrosse Academic All-American – James Chapman (first All-American in the history of our program)
ALL State First Team – Joe Choiniere , Midfield – Academic All-State Team
COACHES AWARD – Kevin M Donovan – AKA Donny Legend Award – David Buono
Team Awards – special awards because they are voted on by the players
Most Improved Player – Brad Uscilla
This player is proof that the program is working the way it is intended to. As a sophomore last season, this player was on the Junior Varsity team. He was brought in to only 2 Varsity games, finishing the season with a whopping 2 goals. He committed himself in the offseason, and once the season began he really seized the opportunity to become a full time starter as a lefty attackman. He went on to lead the team in goals scored with 41 goals (which was 15 more than the next player), and was second on the team in points with 51. This includes a 4 goal performance against a 2X All-American goalie in the first round of the CIAC tournament, and 2 goals in the semifinal game. A great representative of a person who made big strides between his sophomore and junior year, and a great example for the younger guys who may find themselves with an opportunity to do the same with the varsity team next season.
Groundball Award – Sean Grenier
Groundballs (loose balls) in our sport are very important. Although it is often an overlooked statistic, many times the team who wins the game, is the team who collected more ground balls than the other. It is a measure of which team is working harder out on the field. The groundball award, similarly, is given to the player who’s teammates feel was the hardest working individual and motivated others to do the same. The player who earned this award was a standout defensive player. Very physical, and pretty instrumental in our game plans during our playoff run. He certainly got better as the season went on. In the semi-final game he started 2 fast breaks that led to goals. He was a big factor on our man down unit, and a competitor every day in practice.
Offensive Player of the Year – Tyler Burns
This player was third on the team in points in 2014, and led the team with 33 assists. He is the self-proclaimed “mister assister,” and also self-proclaimed smartest kid on the team. He was big in our transition game, had 59 ground balls, and top end speed that made it easy for us to get up and down the field with anyone we played this year. Tyler will make us proud, and will no doubt continue to wear his black and gold while off at Choate over the next 2 years before ultimately playing at a high level in college. He has great talent on the lacrosse field, and was especially good at keeping everyone laughing off the field, and in our team group text.
Defensive Player of the year – Johnny Uscilla
This player was among the most versatile on the team. As a Long Stick Midfielder, he covered the opponents bestmiddie. In addition, he took faceoffs, played on EMO, and played on the man down unit. Led the defense in groundballs, caused turnovers, and had 4 goals in transition capping off an excellent senior season. I think throughout most of the season Johnny was our best player on the field at any position. He was not selected to any all-conference, or all state teams much to my disappointment, but I am glad that his teammates got it right, and he gets to claim some hardware. He will undoubtedly make the team at Merrimack next year, and excel playing division 2 lacrosse if he chooses to.
Team MVP – Joe Choiniere
All- Conference, All-State, All State Academic Team, All- Area MVP. He was awarded the Amity Athlete of the Year for 2013-2014 school year.
Joe led the team in scoring with 55 points (25 goals, 30 assists), but his contribution to the team is one that did not always show up in the box score. He is a complete player out there on the lacrosse field, and a very selfless player. He is very physical, co-led the team in ground balls, is great defensively, and was huge in our transition and clearing game.
He was a great leader on the field, and in the huddle, but a lot of what he was able to contribute came day in and day out during practice. He really set the tone for practices, as an extension of the coaching staff. He commanded great respect from his teammates because he worked so hard every single day. He made everyone on the team better, because he had the same high expectations for each of his teammates that he does for himself. I used to tell the players that they did not have to worry about me yelling at them if they made a mistake, but they did have to worry about Joe getting mad at them.
Joe has made the honor roll in every marking period throughout his high school career. To do that while being a captain of 3 sports is really a testament to what kind of person he is. He is a smart kid, very hard working, and very deserving of any and all accolades that he has received. Sacred Heart University, where he will play lacrosse, is lucky to have him.
Message for the seniors –
A championship is such a coveted thing because 99% of teams end up losing the last game that they play. Only champions get to walk off the field on the last game of the year with a win.
You seniors will go off to college, hopefully I will see some of you at our games in the future. You did not win a championship, or hang a banner. But you should know that 3, 4 or 5 years down the road, it will be this team, and this great playoff run that gets more kids involved in the youth program, gets your towns more excited about the sport of lacrosse, and allows us to win future championships. You boys did that. Look at what you were able to accomplish. Great run, great season. I want to say that I love you all, and thank you for the great experience. I hope that you had fun, that you made friends, and that this team is one of your fondest memories moving forward. Good luck in what the future brings you. Continue to set high goals for yourselves, so if you don’t quite reach them, youstill achieve many accomplishments in your pursuit.
LOOKING FORWARD TO NEXT YEAR…
I can’t stop thinking about how great it was to have the opportunity to make a playoff run, and be in the mix for a championship. Next year, if we don’t abandon what got us here, which was hard work, dedication, and the commitment to getting better every day…We will have that same opportunity. Underclassman, next season is your time to step up and fill the gaps left behind by this graduating class. Much like our Most Improved Player this year, Brad Uscilla was able to do. There is a lot of talent coming back next year, and I am excited for where this program is headed.
Leading the team as Captains Next Year
Matt Attolino – Evan Campbell – Jake Milner