SAUGUS — Perhaps no team in the Northeastern Conference is hungrier to right the ship than the Saugus boys lacrosse team. After an abrupt ending to the 2018 season, highlighted by suspensions prior to a Division 3 North state tournament game, the Sachems are eager to prove themselves.
“The attitudes have been really great so far,” Saugus coach Rob Scuzzarella said. “The energy has been awesome. The guys returning from last year are a little embarrassed about how the season went. It wasn’t just that last week, it was the whole season. I think this core is embarrassed about the disciplinary things that happened last year. They’ve made it a point to eliminate that.”
Last year’s team finished the regular season at 8-8 and qualified for the state tournament as the No. 14 seed. The Sachems were bounced after a first-round loss (17-3) to Pentucket.
“It was a tough end but we were obviously happy to get into the tournament,” Scuzzarella said. “We played a really good Pentucket team in the tournament.
“The message to my older guys in the offseason is that we’ve made it to the tournament three times in the past five years,” Scuzzarella said. “We’ve been outscored 56-5 in those three tournament games. It’s time to take that next step, start competing instead of just getting into the tournament.”
Scuzzarella said the Sachems will carry a young team this spring. Of the 33 players on the varsity roster, 10 are returners from last season.
“It’s kind of tough to give an outlook on the season,” Scuzzarella said. “We had a scrimmage Saturday against Lynnfield and we scrimmaged Gloucester Wednesday. We’ve played a lot of defense with a lot of newer guys. That’s typically how it goes at the beginning of the year, shaking off some of the rust.”
In the attack, Saugus returns seniors Joe Cross and Dom Paolo, and junior Mario Desimone. Sophomore midfielders Andrew Cipriano and Nick DiVola are back in the mix. Leading the defense are seniors Nick Aiken and Jake Morgante, and juniors Richie Mauro and Kyle Tammaro.
Saugus will lean on junior Derek Martineau in goal. Martineau started six games last season.
“Derek has some experience,” Scuzzarella said. “He’s probably our most improved guy right now. He spent a lot of time working in the offseason, which is good to see.”
Aiken and Cross will co-captain the Sachems.
“They’re awesome,” Scuzarella said. “I’m also an assistant hockey coach and they’re both hockey players so I’ve spent a lot of time with them over the past four years. I’ve been really happy with them so far. Jake Morgante’s another leader for us. I think he’s done just as good a job as Nick and Joe so far this year.”
With teams across the NEC improving year in and year out, nothing will be given to Saugus this year. Scuzzarella foresees a competitive conference this spring and said his team will have to earn everything it sets out to accomplish.
“Every game matters,” Scuzzarella said. “You should approach every game like it’s the one that’s going to get us over the hump and put us in the state tournament. I think the three times we’ve qualified for the tournament we’ve had to win three of our last four games.
“We need to start realizing that we don’t have any easy games at all,” Scuzzarella said. “Our league’s extremely competitive. We have to start approaching things with that mentality.”
Saugus starts the season next Thursday at Stoneham. The Sachems host Lynn April 8 in their home opener.
Joining Scuzzarella on the coaching staff is assistant coach Nick Taylor, a 2012 Saugus graduate.