SCOTCH PLAINS, N.J. -- A year ago, Joe Stulec didn't even know how to hold a lacrosse stick. Now, he's the leading scorer on the Union Catholic/Wardlaw-Hartridge lacrosse team.
Stulec's rapid development and transformation is a big reason for the remarkable turnaround this season by the Union Catholic/Wardlaw-Hartridge team, which is off to a 4-1 after the co-operative program finished 0-12 in its first year ever last year.
Stulec, a senior at Union Catholic, has been one of the biggest catalysts for UC/WH as he's emerged into a prolific scorer this spring.
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Stulec has already racked up a team-leading 12 goals, and added five assists and 14 ground balls. Stulec has scored in every game this season, and has scored three goals in three different games, including the historic 5-4 victory at Pompton Lakes in the season opener on March 30, the first win in the history of the program.
Stulec joined the lacrosse team after the fourth game of the season last year.
"I never played it before, so I didn't know much about the game, but I've always been an athletic person and lacrosse combines so many different aspects of lots of sports,'' said Stulec. "I figured I could be good at it so I gave it a try.''
Stulec played defense all last season because of his physical nature and speed, but he was determined to improve his skills and become a more well rounded player.
"I spent all summer working on my stick work,'' said Stulec, who lives in Union. "I went to a school (Washington Elementary) by my house everyday over the summer to throw balls against a wall and I made a square out of tape that was the size of a lacrosse net on a backstop and took shots at it. I knew that with hard work I would improve.''
Stulec also practiced a lot over the summer, fall and winter with his buddy Zakaria Raouf, a junior who has made a big impact this season. He also played lacrosse in a recreation league in the fall and in an indoor league in the winter.
Stulec's hard work and improvement caught the eye of UC/WC Head Coach Dave LiSooey, who named Stulec one of the team captains for this season and moved him from defense to attackman. "Being named one of the captains was something that made me very proud and made me even more determined,'' said Stulec.
Stulec isn't surprised by the 4-1 start to the season by UC/WH.
"I knew we would be better than last year just because we all get along so well and have worked really hard,'' said Stulec. "It feels really good to be beating teams that beat us pretty bad last year. For me personally, I expected to play much better this year, but I am little surprised at how much I have scored. I have to credit my teammates for getting the ball to me and setting me up so well.''
What are Stulec's goals for the rest of the season?
"After not winning any games last year, we are really having a lot of fun winning games now, and I just want to help us keep it rolling and go as far as we can,'' said Stulec.