Pilgrim club lacrosse program takes first steps
Antonio Bolarinho grew up playing youth lacrosse in Scituate. Mike Maggiacomo played in seventh and eighth grade. Sam Adamo, a hockey and tennis player, used to play catch in the yard with his brother.
That was about as far as their lacrosse careers could go.
As students at Pilgrim High School, they were the odd men out. Toll Gate and Warwick Vets field ever-growing boysâ teams. Pilgrim and Warwick Vets have girlsâ teams that are among the largest athletic programs in the schools.
Pilgrim boys never had a chance.
This spring, thatâs changing.
Thanks to the efforts of several students and coach Erik Stachurski, plus the support of administration, Pilgrim has a club lacrosse team on the field this year, with hopes of bumping to varsity and a spot in the Rhode Island Interscholastic League next year.
For the 21 players donning Pilgrimâs black and white for the first time, itâs been a welcome opportunity.
âItâs been awesome,â said Bolarinho, a junior. âI came from a different town, moved here to Pilgrim and there was no program. We tried getting it going last year, and here we are. Iâm glad we finally have one.â
Lacrosse became a Rhode Island Interscholastic League sport in 2001. That year, there were five boysâ teams and four girlsâ teams. In 2014, there are 30 boysâ teams and 31 girlsâ teams.
That expansion has mirrored the sportâs growth at every level. Warwick PALâs youth lacrosse program has doubled in size since it started. This spring, for the first time, it has more players than Warwick PALâs Babe Ruth baseball league.
Stachurski runs PALâs program and had always envisioned a Pilgrim boysâ program as the next step for lacrosse in the city.
âThis is something Iâve always thought about,â Stachurski said. âIâve been involved with Warwick PAL for years. We had some great athletes come through PAL, who never had a chance to play in high school because they went to Pilgrim, and Pilgrim didnât have a team.â
When Adamo was a freshman, there were rumblings. Pilgrimâs girlsâ lacrosse program was getting off the ground and would soar immediately. It made the Division III championship game last year.
But a boysâ program wasnât in the cards.
âFreshman year, there were some of us who thought there was potential to have a team but I guess it wasnât a good time for the school,â Adamo said. âThis year, it just came together.â
With interest growing â and more and more players with youth lacrosse experience coming into the school â Adamo sent an email to Stachurski.
âIt started with an email last year,â Stachurski said. âSam Adamo said âIâve got kids. They want to play. Are you willing to step up?ââ
With the blessing of athletic director Nick DiFilippo and the school, Stachurski and a dedicated group of players led the effort to create a club team. They held sign-ups and meetings, coordinated schedules, raised money â and now theyâre playing lacrosse.
âEven though Iâm a senior, itâs good to see a program get started and know itâs going to be around,â Adamo said. âCoach Stachurski came to us and really brought it off the ground. We wouldnât have a team if it wasnât for him. Heâs donated his time, his money. Heâs really gone all the way for us.â
Pilgrim had a blueprint to follow. The Toll Gate boys and the Warwick Vets girls were the cityâs first lacrosse teams, and both took their first steps as club programs before joining the RIIL in 2005. The Warwick Vets boys, who joined the RIIL in 2009, also started as a club team.
Pilgrimâs foray has been fun, but certainly not easy.
âItâs not just about going out and playing,â Stachurski said. âWe pay for everything. We bought our own jerseys, we pay for referees, we pay bus costs. Hopefully that dedication shows and this is the beginning of a good thing.â
Stachurski lined up a 12-game schedule of mostly RIIL opponents, some from the JV ranks and others from varsity. Weather has forced some shuffling, but the Patriots have played five games so far, including their first rivalry match-up against Toll Gate on Friday. The Titans won that game 12-5, but Pilgrim does own a victory over Charihoâs varsity squad.
âItâs the same thing Iâve been doing with youth â itâs all about growing,â Stachurski said. âAs long as they can hang, learn it, enjoy it and build it into next year, whatâs the downside? Itâs a great group of kids and theyâre working hard.â
Twenty-one players are on the roster. A few came through the youth ranks with Warwick PAL, but most are just giving it a shot, excited for the opportunity to try something new.
âItâs only going to get better,â said Maggiacomo, a senior captain.
Seniors like Adamo and Maggiacomo will never get the chance to play in a varsity game but theyâre proud to be part of the foundation, the team that will make Pilgrimâs lacrosse future possible.
âI think weâll come back here in two or three years and see a really competitive varsity team,â Adamo said. âWe have the kids, we have Warwick PAL. If you get them started freshman year, by the time theyâre seniors, theyâll be in great shape.â
Pilgrim will still have to cross its Tâs and dot its Iâs as it tries to make the jump to varsity next year, but itâs all systems go so far.
âMy hope is we build on this next year and keep going,â Stachurski said. âItâs going to go to the school committee. You have a girls program, you have the other two boys programs. I think the key is hitting and maintaining the numbers. My hope is I would like to see us be part of the RIIL next year.â
If all goes according to plan, the odd men out will be right where they want to be.
âI canât wait until next year,â said Bolarinho.