NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Vinny Carangelo has been preaching tradition to his lacrosse program for each of the past three years.
A school district built on strong academics and historical athletic teams, the boys’ lacrosse squad lacks the statewide accomplishments that every other program has.
Things began to look up last year, when the Pioneers won the Kimber Division for the first time in school history. However, New Providence was left with a sour taste after losing to No. 11 Haddonfield in the second round of the South Jersey, Group 1 state tournament, its second straight defeat in the section quarterfinals.
“We talked about the concept of building tradition,” 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.”
Sporting a veteran attack line and an even more experienced defensive unit, the Pioneers are about to experience something very few teams get: a third chance at life.
After defeating Lower Cape May, 12-1, on Friday, New Providence will try to break the curse and advance to the sectional semifinals for the first time in school history when they face Delaware Valley Regional on Tuesday at Lieder Field.
“I think we were playing as a team, not trying to do too much,” senior attacker James Burke said of his team’s first round win. “We were just relaxing, being patient on offense.”
Carangelo said the “team-first” philosophy has been preached all season this team and it has showed on the stat sheet. The attack line of Burke (50 G, 37 A), junior Jack Harvey (62 G, 49 A) and senior Jon Ebert (31 G, 29 A) lead the team in goals and assists this season.
“We talked about playing unselfish, playing for each other,” Carangelo said. “Its not about me or personal stats. We say that all the time, but in the playoffs, that’s bigger than ever. If we want a chance to continue to advance and continue to pursue the dream that we’ve go, we have to play together. It’s the only way.”
Despite a regular season that was largely a success, the Pioneers have been extremely unpredictable. Carangelo told his team following their opening round victory over Lower Cape May that they are unstoppable when they want to be. Unfortunately, these times are only glimpses and not constant reality.
“It’s a matter of consistency,” Carangelo said. “We have the talent and the ability to do it all the time. Its just a matter of trusting each other. Sometimes things go wrong and you panic. You think ‘now I have to get a goal.’ That’s not how we play. If we get away from the game plan, that’s when we’re in trouble. As long as we stick together, that’s when we show signs of brilliance.”
So, for the third time in as many years, the Pioneers have an opportunity to do something special. Carangelo thinks his team has the talent to reach their dream of a section final, but one big hurdle stands in front of them: the dreaded quarterfinal.
Burke, along with his line of Harvey and Ebert, have all been through this two times before.
“I think its just a mental thing,” Burke said. “We need to come out with the right mindset and make sure we play together. We need to make sure if we’re down, we don’t have to put it on ourselves. We can rely on our teammates and play as a team.”
Opening face off for Tuesday’s quarterfinal bout with Delaware Valley Regional is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Lieder Field.