Lacrosse Jamboree brings everyone together one more time

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

MADISON — “Hey, Dan,” Christian Cuccinello yelled to his friend. “Put your shirt on. Your mother wants a picture of us. … Just like in sixth grade.”

Conversations like that go on from time to time during the New Jersey Lacrosse Jamboree. Whether it’s old friends meeting once again, current teammates playing together one last time or future teammates introducing themselves, the event is all about connections. It is what has made the annual Jsmboree so special over the years. Meetings among friends past, present and future were happening again on Sunday on the turf at Madison High.

The Jamboree, which is run by both North and South Jersey chapters of US Lacrosse, attracts boys and girls lacrosse players from all over the state. It is the final event of the scholastic high school season in which All-Star games ranging from senior showcases to youth competitions are held. High school athletes that are invited have one last fling on the lacrosse field wearing their old helmet before they graduate to the collegiate level or sometimes put away their sticks until they feel like playing catch with friends.

“It means a lot to come back here with the best lacrosse players in New Jersey,” Mountain Lakes standout Christian Cuccinello said. “They’ve done great things with their respective programs so for me to be on the same field with them and out there playing with them, throwing the ball to them and getting passes from them. It’s an honor. It’s something that I’ll never forget.”

176 lax jamDelbarton’s J. J. McBride and Mountain Lakes Christian Cuccinello become unlikely allies at the Lacrosse Jamboree. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Cucinello scored three goals to help the green-clad Seneca team to an 11-7 win over the red-shirted Cayuga team in one of the two Gill Gibbs All-Star Classic contests. His old friend Dan McCarthy of Caldwell had four goals for the red team. He will be attending Montclair State next year.

The game has always been bittersweet for many players because it is the end of one part of their lacrosse life and the beginning of another. Cuccinello, who accepted his New Jersey Player of the Year and All-America honors before the game, seemed ready for the next step.

“It’s an extremely good way to transition to college,” Cuccinello said. “All of these guys are great players. For us to be out here is just a lot of fun. It’s a loose game. It felt like an All-Star game. It didn’t feel competitive but it was a lot of fun to be a part of it.”

51 lax jamChatham teammates Rich Berger, left, and Dan Winschuh got to play together one last time. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

It’s also the last chance to play with some old friends. Cuccinello was fortunate to have four other Mountain Lakes teammates to play with on Sunday. Defensemen Jack Siddron and Robert Gossett, goalkeeper Paul Kimmelman and midfielder Zach Lesko saw quite a bit of time on the field.

“That’s definitely the most special part,” Cuccinello said. “Even though all of us weren’t out there, for us to get five guys into this game was a lot of fun. They are great players, great friends of mine, great teammates, guys that I will never forget. For us to be able to get one last hurrah with them and the rest of the guys on the team was truly special.”

It also brings about some awkward moments in which rivals become teammates if only for an hour or so. On the day after Delbarton earned its first state title since 2006, many of the Green Wave players teamed up with their Lakers foes on the Seneca team.

“They are all great guys,” Cuccinello said. “They had a great season, obviously winning the whole thing. It is weird. We’ve battled them for how many years now. For us to be on the same team is a little awkward but they all nice guys.”

73 lax jam gillChatham’s David Gill is one of many who accepted his All-America hardware at halftime. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Cuccinello is looking forward to working some lacrosse camps in the summer as well as having a little fun. Once August rolls around it will be back to business and the beginning of the adjustment to college life at Villanova.

Sunday’s contest had plenty of Morris County flavor. Another athlete that earned a hat trick was Delbarton defenseman Peter Welch who is Duke bound. Mountain Lakes defenseman Siddron also had a goal and West Morris’ Jeremy Angle had a goal and an assist. Other green team scorers included Alex Lipnick in Governor Livingston, Chris Hubler of Rumson and Chris Aslanian of Westfield. Kimmelman and Delbarton’s Stephen Kovalsky were among the green team keepers. Red team scorers included Logan Leblond of Somerville, Kyle Karsian of Ramapo and Joe Lomeli of A. L. Johnson. Kinnelon’s John Calia was among the red team goalies.

Between the two Gill Gibbs showcase game, plaques were handed out to nearly all the New Jersey All-Americans that were chosen by the coaches. The North Jersey Chapter of US Lacrosse is allotted 27 athletes to be honored. Eleven of them played on teams from Morris County.

Onondaga 11, Mohawk 8

Morristown-Beard’s Trevor Baptiste had two goals and an assist to lift the blue-shirted Onondaga team.

Baptiste, who also won numerous face offs in the contest, was part of one of the feel-good stories of the year. His efforts helped the Crimson to one of its best season’s in a decade.

“I’m a 4-year (varsity) player, my freshman year we didn’t do too well,” Baptiste said. “My sophomore year we didn’t do well either. Now were coming to the state finals my senior year, I got to see the full swing of high school lacrosse. I’m really proud of my team and my coaches.”

11 lax jam

Morristown-Beard’s Trevor Baptiste is taking his talents to the University of Denver this fall. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Baptiste knew a lot of his teammates from a variety of lacrosse events he has been to and played in over the years. He felt comfortable in what was basically a star-studded pick-up game.

“I felt like the first half I thought that everyone could tell that we were a little rusty,” Baptiste said. “There were a few dropped passes and stuff, but lacrosse is a lot like riding a bike. Once you get used to it, by the end of the game you saw some btb’s (behind the back’s) and cool goals. …  Our coaches said the first three quarters to have fun and do what you want and the last quarter just go for it. I think that’s what we did and we ended up winning.”

Baptiste liked the game as a transition contest between high school and college because most of the athletes he played with or against are going to be playing collegiately at some level. He is taking his brilliant face-off skills to the University of Denver to play for former Princeton coach Bill Tierney.

“I’m really excited,” Baptiste said. “I had never been there before. The first time I went to Denver was when I took my visit. Coach Tierney, coach (Dylan) Sheridan and Coach (Matt) Brown are all are good guys and I felt really comfortable around them.”

130 lax jam mackie

Conor Mackie was one of many Delbarton players who competed fresh off the Green Wave’s  T of C title game. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

St. Augustine Prep’s Dan DeSimone and Zach Melillo of Watchung Hills scored two goals apiece. Single scorers included Kyle Barbi of Shawnee, J. P. Southren of Randolph, Jackson Kinley of Glen Ridge and Brendan Handlan of Moorestown. West Morris’ Alex Kennedy and Randolph’s Matt Carle were among the goalies for the blue team. Bergen Catholic’s Chris Blewett scored four goals for the orange team. Montville’s Niko Del Moro scored twice and Immaculata’s Chandler Vanderbeek also added a goal.

Girls All-Stars

Spartans 11, Titans 9

Mendham’s Becky Gohsler had a hat trick to lift the Spartans in an All-Star contest. Mount St. Dominic’s Claire Peck scored twice and Park Regionals Melissa Wamp added a goal for the Titans.

Gladiators 12, Vikings 11

Jefferson’s Kara Hodapp scored twice to help the Gladiators in a close contest. Mountain Lakes’ Jackie Perry and Clearview’s Holly Tevis scored two goals each to fuel the Vikings’ effort.

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About mcvbb

Mark Kitchin is a boys varsity basketball writer for the Morris County New Jersey area

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