YORKTOWN, N.Y. – As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lakeland graduate Joe Cortese, at Mercy College, and Yorktown graduate Louis Ragusa, at Pace University, didn’t get to fulfill their destinies this spring, but they each made the most out of their opportunities.
“It feels great, being ranked No. 8 and having a 5-1 record, and only losing to (No. 1) Le Moyne,” Cortese said. “Our success came from the experience the team had after winning our conference tournament and making it to the tournament the year before. The seniors in 2019 left a huge impact on our program and helped us accomplish our goals.”
Pace, ranked No. 11, went 1-1, with Ragusa earning the Northeast (NE) 10 Goalkeeper of the Week Award on March 9.
“I was very honored,” Ragusa said. “My team and I have been putting in work since we arrived on campus in September, and it paid off. The early morning practices, lifts, conditions sessions, were totally worth it.”
The two played each other in a contest at Mercy on March 7, with Mercy winning 9-6.
“It was fun being able to beat, and finally play Pace, because I never got the chance to play them throughout my four years,” Cortese said. “We would scrimmage them, however, before the spring season.”
Ragusa said the game gave him flashbacks to his high-school days.
“It was an awesome game; the atmosphere and intensity of both teams were very similar to a Murph Cup on Charlie Murphy field in May,” said Ragusa, who recorded 18 saves against Mercy. “Mercy, being only 20 minutes up the street, made it very similar to a Murph Cup, which fuels a rivalry. Mercy is a good lacrosse team, and we’re really fortunate we don’t have to travel that far to compete against them.”
For Cortese, there wasn’t one individual game that stood out.
“Just having such a strong season was the highlight, but knowing that we had a great opportunity was taken away from us hurts,” said Cortese, a senior. “I’m thankful, that I have another opportunity to play my fifth year at Mercy.”
Seniors whose careers were cut short by the pandemic were offered a fifth year by Division II.
“It’s very important to me and getting the opportunity to is awesome,” Cortese said. “If I wasn’t able to play, and my career was ended so short, it would have hurt a lot more, but being able to compete for another championship makes it a lot easier.”
Ragusa was coming off a campaign where he was named was named NE10 Rookie of the Year.
“I was very proud of myself,” said Ragusa, a sophomore. “I was intimidated as an incoming freshman, joining a new team that did not know me. I worked hard from the start, and it was an honor being able to start every single game. It’s one of those achievements every athlete dreams of and works their tail off for, but it wouldn’t have been possible without my teammates. Everyone, from the senior class down, were so welcoming to the freshmen class, and the bonds we created are something I’ll cherish and remember forever.”
While Ragusa stood out in goal, Cortese played a key role at defensive midfield this year.
“We became thin in that position after key players graduated. I filled that spot, but in the beginning of my career, I was more of an offensive midfielder,” Cortese said.
Cortese said that playing for Lakeland/Panas and coach Jim Lindsay, prepared him completely for the next level.
“I felt like I was pretty much up to speed right from the jump, because I played for coach Lindsay,” Cortese said.
Ragusa feels likewise about Yorktown.
“I’m forever grateful for my four years at Yorktown,” Ragusa said. “I joke around with all my friends at school and call Yorktown ‘The Mecca of high-school lacrosse.’ Playing at such a blue-collar program, with incredible talent, helped my game improve and translate smoothly to college. Another perk of playing at Yorktown, was having Yorktown lax legend, coach (Joe) Colarusso. He helped me tremendously through my four years and taught me so much about the game of lacrosse, and life in general.”
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