RANDOLPH, NJ- After a disappointing loss in the New Jersey State Tournament Semi-Finals last season, team captains Austin Hennig and Nolan Sappio look to lead Randolph’s boys lacrosse team to victory this upcoming season.
With a record of 11-12 during the 2014 season, the senior-led team finished the season strong as they made a push deep into the playoffs, ultimately falling short at the hands of Morristown.
The key to last year’s success was the togetherness and unity of the Rams. This mentality followed coach John Naslonski’s motto of, “encourage, don’t discourage”.
In addition to what senior goalie Andrew Weingold calls the “family-like atmosphere”, the team was held together in part by a strong core of seniors.
Both attackman J.P Southren and goalie Matthew Carle contributed in a large part to last year’s success. Each highly skilled individual was granted a New Jersey First Team All State award for their excellence on the field, and their production will need to be replaced.
“We are going to miss both of them for sure,” said Hennig. “They were a big part of our success along with half a dozen other seniors that gave this team some identity as a hard hitting, ground-and-pound squad.”
The foundation of this year’s team will be the nearly 20 players returning from last year’s roster. This list includes current juniors Wyatt Todd, Jake Southren and Brian Gleeson, all who were named to All Morris County teams last year for their outstanding performances throughout the season.
“We plan to improve as a well rounded team by working hard every practice,” said Hennig, a senior defenseman. “We need to focus on all aspects of the game, not just the scoring.”
“We hope to come together as a young team,” said Southren, a recent Quinnipiac Lacrosse commit who will be looked at as a key part of the offense this season. Southren added, “Our staff, head coach John Naslonski and assistants Ben Young and Elliott Grover, are excellent coaches and can definitely help our team out this year, so I’m excited.”
Last year, coach Naslonski made his return as the head coach of Randolph in nearly a decade.
In previous years, he had led Randolph to numerous state championship games. Last year, he brought the program back on the right track with the team’s appearance in the semi-finals.
Rivalry plays a huge part when it comes to the physicality and exhilaration of the fast paced game.
“For sure Roxbury,” Hennig said when asked about the team’s rivals. “Everyone is pumped up and you do everything in your power to beat them.”
“Playing Roxbury is a game we all come out really excited for,” Southren said. “We haven’t lost to them in over a decade and we hope to keep it that way.”
He continued by reminiscing, “We played them twice last year in back to back close games. We narrowly won both the last game of the season and the first round of the playoffs over the Gales with some late game heroics.”
The two teams compete each year in a charity game for various organizations while competing for the Randolph-Roxbury Cup. The victor is awarded the trophy until the following meeting along with an engraving of the score and the winning team’s name.
Each of the last 13 engravings all say the same name, Randolph.
“We want to maintain an identity,” Hennig added. The team was known all around the county for their high level of physicality on and off of the ball by teams and referees alike.
“Teams would walk onto the field afraid and intimidated. We had them right where we wanted them,” said the newly appointed team captain.
“Opponents knew coming onto Dasilva Field that they were going to have to take some punishment if they wanted to get anywhere near the goal,” said Weingold.
The boys open their season on Saturday March 27, home at 10 AM, and wiil be tested by an opponent who surely will have revenge on their minds. They will face off against Howell, who the Rams just defeated in the hockey state finals a couple weeks ago.
“The state championship is our main goal this year like any year, and if we work hard, we can get it,” said Hennig.