NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – The Pioneers’ boys’ varsity lacrosse team has set sail on a new journey for the 2014 season. No longer is New Providence only looking to win games, instead they’re interested in building a tradition.
Going into last season, New Providence had never won their conference. That changed in May as the Pioneers went 14-5 en route to their first Kimber Division Championship is school history. Their first banner in the main gym of New Providence High School, and their first season where winning games isn’t all that matters.
“We talked about the concept of building tradition,” fourth-year head coach Vinny Carangelo said. “New Providence is built on tradition. [Boys’] lacrosse has none. We’ve had a chip on our shoulder the last three years. Last year we got the banner in the gym. We can’t be one-and-done. Every year we should be a contender.”
The Pioneers are set to overshadow their success over the past two seasons. Despite losing three starters, goalie Brian Valerio, midfielder Derek Singer and defender Zak Piech – who have a combined three All-State honorable mentions – the Pioneers return two 100 goal scorers, with one more on the way.
Senior James Burke, who will be playing lacrosse at Boston University next season, leads an experienced front line of Jack Harvey and Jon Ebert. Burke and Harvey each have 100 goals, while Ebert is seven shy of the career mark.
On the back line, New Providence returns two of their four starting defenders. Mimmo Coppola and CJ Kliesch have both started over 100 games together in their lacrosse careers.
Kliesch expects a lot from this group, especially from the attackers who could be the most experienced in school history.
“We should expect to score a lot,” Kliesch said. “I expect a lot of unselfish plays, a lot of assists, from James Burke and John Ebert, they’re going to college to play. Jack Harvey is a stud and he’s only a junior. We should score a lot; we should have a lot of possession. We should do fairly well on that side of the ball.”
However experienced the Pioneers attack and defense is, they will be playing with inexperience at midfield and in goal. Sophomore Quinn Killeen, who is the only returner at midfield, will be joined by a slew of fellow underclassmen ready to join the varsity ranks.
Adding to the Pioneers youth will be their new netminder, Garrett Pope.
Pope takes over between the pipes, replacing the three-year captain Valerio who finished his career with two All-State Honorable Mentions.
Carangelo thinks his team’s biggest challenge heading into the season will be how the Pioneers replace the leaders they lost last year. Burke, Coppola, Ebert and Kliesch have stepped into the roles of captain, and so far, have done all their coach has asked, and even more.
“Since day one, its been leadership,” he said. “We lost all four of our captains. Brian Valerio was a three-year captain for us. I’ve been very happy with where we are this year with our captains.”
New Providence is a combined 30-8 over the past two seasons and are looking to do more than that. Wins and even conference championships aren’t enough for the Pioneers this year. They’re locked and loaded with the target being a state championship.
“Our goal is to win the conference again, back-to-back, and get as far in the state tournament as we can,” Kliesch said. “We have a lot of guys back. Our whole defense are seniors. Our whole attack has been together for three years. We’re looking to do some damage.”
After starting their season with three road games, including an opening day victory over Old Bridge on Wednesday, the Pioneers’ home schedule begins on Tuesday when they host Clifton on Lieder Field at 4 p.m.