There’s new kids on the block at SUNY New Paltz: the first ever men’s lacrosse team.
It was announced in July of 2018 that the New Paltz Athletic Department was transitioning men’s lacrosse from a club sport to varsity sport, starting with the inaugural season in 2020. The day finally came for the new Hawks to make their debut, but how did they get there?
With interest growing in the sport each year, the club team won the conference championship in 2015. In order to make the transition from club to sport, a coaching staff was required. Dwayne Stewart took the position of head coach, with Dylan Neiser, Jeff Struzzieri and JD Colarusso as assistant coaches.
Taking the leap to a varsity sport meant preparing to compete in a SUNYAC conference that has teams with years of experience. Cortland, Geneseo, Oneonta, Potsdam, Plattsburgh, Oswego and Brockport are all a part of the conference. Cortland won their second-straight SUNYAC title in 2019.
The Hawks soared into action against Elmira College on Friday at 3 p.m. at the South Turf Field. On this historic first day, first-year John Hankel took his place at the goal post for the Hawks. The game had begun, as did NCAA men’s lacrosse at SUNY New Paltz.
To the delight of fans and spectators, the first goal of the game was scored by a Hawk. First-year attack Ryan Scully hit the net at 9:51, assisted by first-year midfielder Mason Pontrelli.
When asked about how it felt to score the first goal of the first game, Scully said it was a crazy experience.
“It was nice to get the team on the board and start the game,” he said. “We have worked really hard to get to where we are and to now be a part of New Paltz history is a really cool experience.”
From there, fourth-year faceoff/midfielder Jake Malloy defeated Elmira’s fourth-year midfielder James Mayer in the faceoff, passing the ball to first-year midfielder Pat Harnaga.
With 16 seconds left in the first quarter, Scully did it again, this time unassisted. Thanks to eight saves in the period from Hankel, the Hawks were going into quarter two with a score of 2-0.
At 9:53, a different Hawk stepped up to the plate. Second-year attack Justin Pollak scored his first goal, assisted by Scully. Shortly after, a winning faceoff from Malloy allowed Scully to score again. The score was 4-0, Hawks. Towards the end of the quarter, Elmira managed to score two points, but their goals were greatly overshadowed by the dominance of the Hawks. At 1:05, first-year attack Tom Armetta scored a goal, assisted by Pontrelli.
The Hawks led 5-2 going into the second half. This time, first-year Nate Lindsey took his spot as goalie for the Hawks, with Hankel in for the faceoff. Hankel won the faceoff, allowing first-year midfielder Aidan Gregory to get the ground ball pickup, and eventually score, assisted by fourth-year midfielder Greg Gurello.
At 3:55, Pontrelli got a goal of his own, this time assisted by Armetta. Almost 30 seconds later, Gurello landed the final score of the third for the Hawks.
As if the day couldn’t get any better, four Hawks scored goals in the last quarter. First-year attack Nate Biblowitz got two, one assisted by Harnaga and one assisted by Armetta. Third-year defender Joseph Bradbury also got a goal, along with another from Armetta assisted by Malloy. Amazingly, Scully picked up his fourth and fifth goal of the game, unassisted.
New Paltz ended their first men’s lacrosse game in a win, 14-4. Hankel picked up a win of his own with four saves, Lindsey with seven.
From the way they made their debut, this team has proven to all others in the conference that they are a force to be reckoned with. New Paltz will be back in action at home, against Bard College on Saturday at 3 p.m. This important year is already shaping up to be a memorable one, and there’s no doubt it will be an exciting season to follow New Paltz men’s lacrosse.