By Ellen Oliver
Two up and coming lacrosse players spent this summer getting extra practice with the Rising Stars Lacrosse team out of Worcester. Ben Hurley and Casey Elkins, both of whom will be juniors at Nashoba next year, joined the summer team to increase their skills and test them against a higher level of play.
The two participated in a team comprised of local lacrosse players, many of whom the boys will meet as opponents during the regular lacrosse season, but that wasn’t a problem. “We talked, we got along, we all supported each other,” said Hurley. Since many of the players hadn’t played together on a team, the players invested their time off from school with 14 lacrosse practices, before hitting the tournament circuit.
The first two tournaments were played at Harvard University and on Long Island. The final tournament of season, the Summer Sizzle, was held in Baltimore July 12-14. The tournaments lead to a final national tournament hosted in Florida. But while playing the national tournament is an honor, the summer tourneys also serve as a showcase where high school players can show their stuff in front of college coaches.
At the Summer Sizzle tournament, the Rising Stars team earned the top seed into the playoff round after defeating five teams with no losses. “Over each tournament we progressed as a team,” said Hurley. “In Maryland we really clicked.”
But the top seed drew a tough opponent; a team from the local area in Maryland. The 40-minute game was coming down to a 2-2 tie when the Rising Stars were called on a penalty and lost a player for one minute, the final minute of the game. The Maryland team pushed hard with a one man advantage and scored to take the 3-2 win.
Hurley said the experience playing on the team and at these tournaments at a different and more competitive level improved his game. “It was very fast paced, a close game,” said Hurley. “It’s definitely a higher game than at the high school.” Elkins agreed, adding, “I feel like I’m so much better skills-wise. Playing at a higher level makes you better.”
The Rising Stars team has a familiar name on the coaching roster, Kevin McNamara, the current head coach of the Nashoba boys’ lacrosse team. Having Coach McNamara on the staff was positive for the boys, but they also enjoyed having the expertise of Coach Patrick Gaffney, a former college and professional lacrosse player. “Coach Mac is awesome,” said Elkins. “Having Coach Gaffney was great too, he knows a lot. He has a different perspective- more serious, more aggressive.”
The two Nashoba players on the team must have brought their A-game since each earned spots as starters with Hurley on defense and Elkins on offense. Elkins was even awarded the game ball after a first round win in Maryland. “The other team set the tone for physicality. The coach was proud that I didn’t let them get in my head,” he said.
Both boys came up through the Nashoba Youth Lacrosse League, along with Casey’s older brother, Kyle, who will be playing lacrosse for Clark University next year. Each will be back on Nashoba’s varsity roster next spring.
While they didn’t make the national tournament, Hurley said the summer league was a great opportunity and he would do it again. “All these kids are playing lacrosse at a pace not usually found in high school,” said Hurley. “If you’re interested, doing these summer leagues will help you be the best you can.”
For more pictures, visit daisydesignphotos.