Lou Ferrara describes the Warwick PAL lacrosse program as up-and-coming, but based on the way his U-15 team played this spring, it looks like it may have already arrived.
Ferrara is the coach – along with Jim McCusker – of PAL’s U-15 Team 2, and it recently completed the best season in the history of the program.
PAL finished the season with a 16-0 record, which included a run through the state tournament that culminated in a championship with a 6-2 win over Portsmouth last Saturday.
“The way coach Jim and I coach, we coach team, team, team,” Ferrara said on Wednesday. “It’s not an ‘I’ thing, it’s a ‘we’ thing. We promote teamwork, getting everybody involved.”
PAL was impressive all season, winning its 10 regular season games – many by large margins – to get the top seed in the playoffs.
From there, it knocked off the Warwick PAL U-15 Team 1, CLCF, Northern Rhode Island and Cumberland before taking out Portsmouth for the title.
It won its first three playoff games by a combined scored of 28-2.
“I can’t emphasize enough that it was a team effort,” Ferrara said. “It was a big team effort.”
The 16th win the team had – outside of the 10 league wins and the five playoff wins – was a non-league game against a Coventry competition team.
Essentially, Coventry’s team was one comprised of kids who have to try out for the team, while PAL is a recreation league team. There are no cuts.
And for the only time all season, PAL trailed at halftime, 6-4.
But with another whole half to play, it caught fire, eventually winning the game 9-6.
“The kids just rallied around each other,” Ferrara said. “Coventry was out for blood because we beat their rec team pretty handily the week before. The comp team was coming after us pretty hard.”
The other big test the team had during the season was a game against East Greenwich, which it won 4-3.
“All in all, our guys worked really hard to overcome,” Ferrara said.
Making PAL’s run more impressive is the dynamic around the state when it comes to lacrosse. Players are not limited to playing just in their hometowns.
For instance, if a player from Warwick wants to go play in East Greenwich, he can do that – and many of them do.
But Ferrara hopes that by proving that a team from Warwick can win, it will encourage more kids to stick around rather than heading over to a more established program, like East Greenwich.
“You can develop what you have and you can grow with what you have if you don’t go to other towns or other rec leagues,” Ferrara said.
PAL certainly developed its talent.
Its success started in the back, with goaltender Nick Sammartino. He has played the last two seasons in net.
In front of him, the team’s primary defensemen were Joe Fox, Tucker Gotheberg and Stephen Octeau.
“They were unbelievable,” Ferrara said.
In the midfield, PAL rotated two lines, both of which produced consistently.
The first line consisted of Reilly Miller, Ryan Mulhearn and Nate Magner, while the second line was Brandon Waterman, Jacob Isaac and Patrick Kamm
Up front, at attack, PAL was led by Nolan McCusker, Brandon Ferrara and Patrick Creamer.
Jarrod Rathburn and JP Higgins also helped out.
While all of those players were experienced, the team also received significant help from a couple of first-year players. John Perrigo and Tylor Rubiera both started playing this year, and became impact players.
“They went through the season with us from beginning to end, and they ended up being good contributors during playoff time,” Ferrara said.
Now, Ferrara hopes the league can build on some of its success.
There are opportunities to play for kids in first and second grade, and the league runs up to U-15.
“League director Erik Stachurski has done a great job trying to develop the league,” Ferrara said. “We’re really trying to develop the league. Warwick PAL has always been football and baseball, football and baseball. Lacrosse has grown immensely throughout Rhode Island.”
The next step up from U-15 is high school lacrosse, and Ferrara believes that many of his kids have the talent to compete at the highest level. Unfortunately, a number of them live in the Pilgrim school district – which doesn’t have a lacrosse team.
Ferrara is hoping for a resolution to that issue at some point, but at the very least, he, his coaching staff and his team have quite a memorable season to look back on.
“It was really a great season,” Ferrara said.