Achievement reached in only its second season
In only its second season, the County College of Morris (CCM) Titan lacrosse team firmly held on to a ranking of between 7th and 9th in the nation, finishing with a 9-6 record. It aggressively defended its standing up through the second round of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) regional playoffs before being eliminated in a fierce competition with Brookdale Community College. The final, nail-biting score was 10-9.
â€śWe played in Region 19 of the NJCAA,â€ť Jack Sullivan, CCM Athletic Director says. â€śIt was a very competitive schedule against teams in Maryland, upstate New York, and one other team in New Jersey. We were up against 30 or so NJCAA teams across the U.S.â€ť
Climbing so high, so quickly in the national rankings is unusual for a novice team. â€śI thought it would take a little longer but Iâ€™m pleasantly surprised,â€ť said head coach Jay Roussey. â€śI was thinking that we might rank in the top 10 in three to five years.â€ť
Roussey thinks the teamâ€™s secret weapon was location. â€śMorris County has the best lacrosse programs in the state, maybe even the country.â€ť CCM is the only community college in northern New Jersey that has a lacrosse program, so players who want to attend a community college and continue to play after high school are coming to CCM.
This yearâ€™s success represents a big turnaround. Last year â€“ the teamâ€™s first at CMM â€“ only 18 players turned out because most high school coaches and students were unaware of the program. Having so few players to draw from made that first season a struggle and the team finished 0-9.
To publicize the team, newly hired coach Roussey reached out to high schools in the surrounding areas. It paid off with more than 35 players joining the team this year. â€śCoach Roussey hit the ground running and built this program,â€ť says Sullivan. But Roussey is quick to step back and give his players credit. â€śThere isnâ€™t any kind of coaching guru thing going on here,â€ť he says. â€śItâ€™s about getting the players together as a unit â€“ a group that likes to play with one another and likes to hang out together.â€ť
Being a member of a team has grounded his players at school and given them a sense of belonging. â€śThese kids are making friendships that may last for the rest of their lives,â€ť Roussey says. â€śThey are learning to be unselfish and think not just about themselves, but about the team. I want them to look back on their lacrosse experience five, ten, 15 years from now and be proud to say that they played for our team.â€ť
He says there are so many good players on the team that it is challenging to single anyone out. But one player that rises to the top is midfielder T.J. McAndrew with more than 120 ground balls to his credit, who the coach believes has the potential to be an All American.
Among the other area players who had outstanding years are Kinnelon’s David Soule, Carl Mauch of Mendham, and Chris Ordway of West Morris, all of whom were in the 40 to 60 point range. Three players from Morris Hills also had notable seasons: Vin Gencarelli with 23 goals and two assists, Tom Walsh with eight goals and 25 assists and more than 30 ground balls, and Nick Lusardi who played well despite injuries.
The CCM defense featured Anders Dahlberg of Sparta, Zach Miranda of Jefferson and Kevin Ritota, a former Hanover Regional player who was also spectacular on ground balls. Goalkeeper Travis Witty of Montville also did well with 157 saves.
Justin Nicholson of Roxbury who helped start the lacrosse program last year served as the team captain. â€śHe was starting goalie last year,â€ť Roussey says, â€śHe was not a starter this year, but played with us all season and showed himself to be a real leader. Heâ€™s a driven, self-motivated kid. Thatâ€™s what you want to see.â€ť
Coach Roussey sees a bright future for community college lacrosse: â€śI think community college lacrosse is something that in the coming years will double in the amount of teams playing. Ocean and Bergen counties are considering programs. Itâ€™s the fastest growing sport in the nation. Iâ€™m hoping in next five to 10 years, we go from 30 teams to 50 or 60.â€ť
Roussey says that anyone thinking of trying out for the team should not be intimated by this yearâ€™s winning season. â€śI would encourage any student who has any interest at all in lacrosse to come try out for the team,â€ť he says. â€śEvery year we lose half of our team to graduation and transfer. Every year there is a fresh opportunity for new players. Anyone interested in playing can come out, give it a try and see where he stands. I am always looking for good players.â€ť