In 2018, Chris Waddell voiced a clear goal for his North Brunswick Township High School boys’ lacrosse team.
“A winning season,” Waddell said.
Before the NJSIAA North Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament, the Raiders had a 10-9 record. They would have earned a low seed in the tournament and a first round date with a New Jersey power.
But Waddell and his players wanted to finish above .500, so the coach passed up the chance to play in the state sectional tournament.
“It was important for the kids to feel accomplished about a winning season,” Waddell said.
The 10-9 finish was a step forward for a program that has struggled with numbers during Waddell’s eight year tenure.
With lacrosse, North Brunswick is like a lot of towns in the Garden State. Most parents are still unfamiliar with the sport, so it’s hard to raise awareness when kids are young.
“It’s tough,” Waddell said.
But it’s getting better each year.
North Brunswick will open its 2019 season with a road game at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North on March 27. The Raiders will enter the campaign with 31 players in their program, up from 24 a year ago.
“There’s new blood from word of mouth,” Waddell said.
North Brunswick should also be good again this year. Five starters are back, including leading scorers Andrew Richardson and Aaron Ahr.
Waddell expects the Raiders to improve on their record from a year ago. And this time, if North Brunswick qualifies for the North Jersey, Group 4 tournament, it will participate.
“No matter who we play,” Waddell said.
North Brunswick may not have a team of year round lacrosse players, like those state powers, but it at least has one in Richardson. The junior scored 95 combined goals in his first two high school seasons.
The key for North Brunswick is complementing Richardson with enough offense. Ahr was really good at that last spring, recording 30 goals and 33 assists.
Lucas Geyer and Harris Khawaja should also complement Richardson. Geyer added 14 goals last season. Khawaja developed into a face off specialist, winning 66 percent of his attempts.
The Raiders have the talent and chemistry to score goals. Their challenge will be preventing them.
Junior Sammy Cruz is starting in net for the first time in his varsity career. He was the junior varsity goalie last spring. In his first two years of high school, Cruz learned from North Brunswick’s varsity standout, Colin White, a 2018 graduate.
“He told me the game is 50 percent physical, 50 percent mental,” Cruz said.
White taught Cruz that physical skills come with reps, so building mental skills is the hard part. He introduced his protege to meditation to help deal with the stress of standing alone in a net.
Now, Cruz has his own method of meditation. Each day, he takes 10 minutes to clear his mind and think about how things could be worse.
“The bottom line is if you get angry it will make things worse,” Cruz said.
With a relaxed mind, the junior is ready for his first season as the starter. He, like his coach, expects at least 10 victories.
“We’re trying to build,” Waddell said.