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Saugus High boys lacrosse triumphs with a team return after a year off

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By Dom Nicastro


The Saugus High School boys lacrosse team already had perhaps its biggest victory of the season before it even played a game. They have a team. That’s the big news. Last year, they didn’t have one because of low participation.

This spring, the Sachems have a functioning, healthy team of 18 on the varsity roster. And Rob Scuzzarella, back for his 12th season at the helm, even has two assistants: former players Christian Billingsley and Dom Paolo.

Wins and losses will be watched this year. Saugus lost to Salem, 6-5, in the opener, a great sign this team can and will be competitive. But keeping the program active, healthy and successful to entice future players to keep the participation level strong are the main goals.

“I played for Saugus High and I was fortunate enough to play in college,” Scuzzarella said. “So I’ve always kind of felt like lacrosse has given me a lot in my life. And I feel a little obligated to give back to kids who grew up in the same town as me. So certainly, those two things keep me going.”

Scuzzarella’s team comes with a lot of youth: eight eighth-graders, three freshmen, two sophomores and five seniors. No juniors.

The good news? The Sachems’ eighth-graders have a ton of potential and have been playing lacrosse for multiple years now. They are committed to the sport and excited to get going.

“The unique thing is that we are, quote-unquote, inexperienced at the high school level, but all of these guys that are in eighth grade have been playing for a long time,” Scuzzarella said. “And they’ve been playing together for a long time. So I’m very excited for them to kind of take that next jump, past youth lacrosse into the high school realm. I think I’m probably going to have six eighth-graders on the field at the first whistle … Actually, the starting goalie would be an eighth-grader (Conor Lacey), but he broke his hand last week. So he’s going to be out for a few weeks.”

Leading those eighth-graders onto a field of competitors around five to six years older than them (in some cases) will be senior captains Cam Preston, a midfielder, and Ryan Jones, who plays attack.

“I had Jonesy when he was in eighth grade with the hockey team,” Scuzzarella said. “And actually [Jones’] eighth-grade year was the COVID season. So, this would be my fifth-year coaching Jonesy. But Cam Preston, he came out two years ago as a sophomore. So those two guys have played for me before. And actually also one of the freshmen was part of the team two years ago: sophomore goalie Larry Barrows. So we’ve got some kids that have played for me before. … And we’re very excited about the youth of this team. Very skilled group so far. I don’t want to get my hopes too high, because we’re extremely young. I can’t really overstate how young these guys are. But we are very happy with the skill so far over the last two weeks.”

The hiring of two assistant coaches who are also program alumni, Billingsley (2018 grad) and Paolo (2019 grad), speaks to the culture of mentorship and continuity within the program. Their familiarity with the program’s ethos and their firsthand experiences will provide valuable insight and connection, fostering a sense of continuity and tradition. This reflects a strategic approach to coaching that values shared history and the mentorship pipeline within the sports community.

“I’ve got two assistants this year for the first time ever,” Scuzzarella said. “And also unique is that both of them played for me. It’s pretty cool that I’m able to have multiple assistants for the first time ever and that both of them have come through the program. So that’s a big value for the kids. Dom’s working at the school right now at the middle school level. So he’s been extra valuable in the sense that some of these younger guys are already familiar with him. For the last two years, I think he’s been helping out at the middle school and Christian coached to the seventh- and eighth-grader youth program last year. So I’ve got a lot of younger guys right now that are familiar with both of my assistants, which is very helpful.”

Saugus this year scratched the large-school Northeastern Conference teams to make the schedule more to ensure a competitive season for his young team. By seeking relief from playing top-tier teams and opting for a schedule better suited to their developmental stage, the program illustrates the importance of aligning competitive opportunities with team capabilities. This strategic move also highlights the dynamic nature of league participation and the need for programs to advocate for the best interests of their teams.

“We’re thankful for that,” Scuzzarella said. “I think I was able to put together what I think is going to be a competitive schedule for our age level. I don’t imagine that these younger kids are going to struggle lacrosse-wise. I would imagine that we might be a little bit slow, we might be a little timid at first. But they’ll get over that in a few weeks. And I’m expecting to beat some of these teams on our schedule.”

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