HARTFORD, Conn. – Nick Vazquez, a 2016 Lakeland graduate, was an All-American face-off man for Lakeland/Panas’ Section 1 Class A championship squad, which saw the Rebels reach the state final four in his senior season.

Vazquez went on to play at the University of Hartford, where he was having an outstanding year this spring before the COVID-19 pandemic ended the Hawks’ season.

As a senior at Hartford, Vazquez won 34 of 61 face-offs, a .557 percentage, for a team that finished 3-3.

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“It means the world to me,” Vazquez said. “I was having the best statistical year of my career, and finally, started to find my groove.”

After starting out 1-3, the Hawks rebounded to win what turned out to be their final two games of the season. They won at home against Manhattan College, 11-8, on March 3, before earning an 18-9 triumph at Wagner College on March 7.

Vazquez contributed to those two victories by going 6 for 6 against Manhattan, and 7 for 8 against Wagner at the face-off X.

“We were strong up the middle,” Vazquez said. “We were winning face-offs and making saves in the cage. Without that, we probably go to 1-5 and struggle to get going in the right direction. Winning is the best feeling in the world, especially when everyone is contributing to the win.”

The fact that the Hawks were able to turn the corner made the abrupt end to the season even harder to take.

“Having my senior year end early, under these circumstances, was a hard pill to swallow,” Vazquez said. “I was having my best year, and so was the rest of the team. It hurts not knowing what could have been, but it’s just the reality of the situation.”

With the season being canceled because of the virus, the NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee granted spring athletes an extra year of eligibility. Whether Vazquez takes advantage of that is up in the air.

“It is still undetermined what I will be doing come next fall,” Vazquez said. “Lacrosse has given and taught me so much. I was not ready to hang up my cleats and call it a career, but I need to make the most equitable decision, for my family, and I. I hope to know soon.”

While enjoying his time at Hartford, that championship season for Lakeland/Panas is something he still holds dear to his heart.

“Being able to do that for a program like Lakeland/Panas will forever be something I cherish deeply,” Vazquez said. “The impact the coaches, players, and program had on me is what molded me into the man I am today.”

In addition to playing lacrosse in high school, Vazquez also played football and ran winter track, something that aided him immensely while playing lacrosse.

“Playing other sports throughout high school has helped me tremendously,” Vazquez said. “There are just some things you can’t get in lacrosse that help you grow as a person and player. The coaching, skills, and strategies used in other sports help you be able to adapt to the different situations in lacrosse better.”