Don’t look now, but big things are happening with the Robbinsville High boys’ lacrosse team. On second thought, do look now. Take a long, hard look, in fact, because there is some great stuff to see. Things that have never been seen before with the program.
Coming off a 13-4 campaign in which the Ravens set a school record for wins and reached the Mercer County Tournament final for the first time, the Ravens had an all-time high 60 boys come out this spring. They will field a team at all three high school levels. Nearly the entire starting varsity lineup except for 2016 Colonial Valley Conference Player of the Year Mike Sanguinetti is back. Six players are committed to play college lacrosse, and the toughest schedule in team history is loaded with teams that were ranked in New Jersey’s Top 30 last year.
“To say we’re excited,” coach Sean Greig said, “would be an understatement.”
“Our guys understand the level of expectations and, more importantly, that they set a standard for Robbinsville High School,” Greig continued. “With 13 seniors who all made a big difference in our production and our wins, we also have some successful juniors and sophomores coming up. We think the sky’s the limit.”
The Ravens very well could fly to new heights, but only if they start on the ground daily. The team motto for this year is to go 1-0 every day—even if it’s practice.
“What this means is that whether it’s in practice, a game or a state or county final, we give it our all and have fun playing,” said senior captain Aaron Smilow, who is Greig’s stepson and a two-time All-Conference defender. “I truly believe that our team has the potential to be back to back (Patriot Division) champs, win an MCT championship and a state championship. All we have to do is work hard and have fun. We have the talent, we have the coaching, we have the chemistry, all we need to do is go after it and go 1-0.”
Greig elaborated on that idea, saying “We’ve talked about the elephant in the room (of high expectations) being fun. We’re not going to shy away from it. But we have T-shirts that say 1-0. That means we are all about the right now. And the next day, it’s about right now. Even if it’s an off day, it’s about going 1-0. It might be a drill, it might be a ground ball or might just be shooting. Our kids have taken on the mentality. It’s all about getting the 1-0. I told them if we go 1-0 every day, we’ll win a heck of a lot more than we lose.”
‘Years from now we want to look back and be proud of what this program has become.’
Despite graduating Sanguinetti, Robbinsville returns plenty of firepower in junior Jake Veras (40 goals, 28 assists) and senior captains Corey Kale (30 goals, 20 assists) and Brandon Sankey (17 goals, 15 assists). Senior Jared Twamley and junior Dominic Rodriguez are also on attack.
“Mikey was an unbelievable player last year, and it was great to be able to be on the field with him,” Smilow said. “We have to also consider that his success was backed by the help of the team he was surrounded by. We are thankful to have all of those guys return. This year, I think that everybody on the team is a scoring threat. To stop our offense, the other team is going to have to stop everyone now, not just one player.”
Senior captain Bobby Stewart is a returning first-team All-State pick at midfield, where he is joined by Kale, Sankey and senior Taylor Twamley.
“The speed, athleticism and lax IQ those guys have is incredible to have there,” Greig said.
Defenders include Smilow, senior captain Kyle Twamley, seniors Ian Winn and Chris Curran (6-4, 210) and junior Dylan Scholl (6-2, 205). Senior captain Derek Taylor, a rangy 6-foot-3 athlete, returns in goal.
“Kyle’s our enforcer in the middle, whereas Aaron goes and gets the ground balls, throws his body all over the place,” Greig said. “And having a kid like Derek in goal can make a huge difference.”
Smilow’s saga is a story in itself. He tore his left labrum as a freshman but played through the spring and summer season before getting surgery in October. In his sophomore season, déjà vu reared its ugly head as he tore his right labrum, played through it in the spring and summer and had another operation in October. In the division clincher against Hightstown last year, he took a cross check from behind and broke his lower back. He still played in the second-round, 9-8 state loss to New Providence.
“With all my injuries, Robbinsville lacrosse has been the reason I’m able to recover,” said Smilow, who said he got to where he is thanks to his mom’s encouragement. “I live to play this game. To know that I have a whole family to come back and play with, really motivated me to get healthy and return to the lacrosse field.”
Rounding out the varsity roster are seniors Aaron Budanitsky and Luke Olshevski, juniors Tyler Makkay, Brian Nodine, Mike Garvey, Matt Savoca, Matt Lake and Kevin Corcoran, and sophomores Eli Winn, Jeremy Calabro, Hunter Smilow, Vin Iorio and Ian Kempton.
Seniors who will play in college include Smilow and Jared Twamley at Stockton, Winn (Catholic University), Sankey (Elizabeth), Kale (Hofstra) and Stewart (High Point). For good measure, Kyle Twamley will play football at Salisbury.
The program has as many coaches as college players, with a program-high five assistants helping Greig including some former Raven standouts.
Greig praised Matt Coyle and the Robbinsville Lacrosse Association for becoming an outstanding feeder system and noted the RLA has nearly 250 players in its leagues this year.
Consider them part of the family.
“You are a Robbinsville Raven lacrosse player whether you are playing youth league, freshman, JV or varsity,” Smilow said. “You are a part of something bigger, you are a part of the Robbinsville Ravens. The varsity team goes down and watches youth games to show our support. They love when the older kids come.
“To be able to give back like that is what I think being a part of a program is about. No doubt, we play to win. But we also know that building a program from the bottom up is important. Years from now we want to look back and be proud of what this program has become.”
Actually, they can be pretty proud right now, and are a bunch of 1-0 days from being a lot prouder.