Steven Saleh, Joe Mastromonica and Freddy Offenburger look a lot like the South Brunswick High School boys’ lacrosse team–and the average teenage boy in general.
All three Vikings’ players are young, energetic and in great shape from playing a bunch of sports. And while they aren’t new to lacrosse, it has never been their main sport.
Saleh, Mastromonica and Offenburger are playing in the midfield for South Brunswick this spring. As a group, their job is to win face offs, pick up ground balls and create offensive chances, the core competencies of a successful lacrosse team.
The trio is aggressive and fearless enough to become a strong midfield unit as the season continues. But they are still getting used to the speed of varsity games.
South Brunswick is 1-4 through five contests.
“We’re young and learning,” said South Brunswick coach Cliff Higgins.
Higgins has a vision for what he wants his team to be by the end of the spring.
“A team that can play fast,” he said.
And he thinks his three midfielders can transform the Vikings into a squad that plays at a breakneck pace.
All three are already pretty effective possession creators. They just have to figure out how to convert possessions into goals and victories.
But the mindset is there.
“They don’t back down,” Higgins said.
Saleh, Mastromonica and Offenburger played lacrosse all summer for Higgins’ club squad, Team Turnpike in Princeton. That’s when they developed their face off, ground ball and stick control skills, and earned central roles on South Brunswick’s varsity team.
But that’s not why Higgins is confident that they can elevate the Vikings into an elite squad. The coach feels good about that because the trio is a group of restless teenage boys, and their participation in other sports developed skills that apply to lacrosse.
“I’d rather see them play other sports than play lacrosse year round,” Higgins said.
Offenburger, the Vikings’ face off specialist, is a wrestler in the winter. The one on one physicality of wrestling helped him become a strong face off guy in lacrosse.
Saleh played soccer and ice hockey in the past, and he said both sports built his endurance to dart around the lacrosse field and grab the ball.
“Lacrosse felt natural,” Saleh said.
Mastromonica played soccer and hockey as well, and he is still a goalkeeper for South Brunswick in soccer, which speeds up his reaction time for face offs and grounders. The constant shuffling also strengthened his leg muscles to, like Saleh, race around the lacrosse field and gain possessions.
The athletic trio gives Higgins a foundation in the middle. The rest of the Vikings are a work in progress, but they may have found some scorers in D.J. Glassman and Ciro Iovine, who both have six goals in three games.
The coach and his players are just happy with progress this spring. They have not really set any long term expectations.
“Get a little bit better each day and go 1-0 every game,” Higgins said. “Keep it simple like that.”
“If we come together and work as a team, we can do something,” Offenburger added.