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Monday, April 23 Sports

Staples boys lacrosse sending four to next level

To compete with the likes of Darien, Ridgefield and New Canaan in the toughest boys lacrosse conference in the state, college prospects on the roster almost seem necessary. The way Staples has been pumping them out over the past several seasons, it shouldn't be long before the Wreckers are near the top of the FCIAC ladder.

Four more current Wreckers -- Seniors Pat Lesch (Dartmouth) and Cole Gendels (Union), and juniors Isaac Paparo (UMass) and Lucas Jackson (Loyola) -- will be plying their trade at the Division I and Division III levels over the next several years.

"Over the past couple of years, we have definitely made a name for ourselves," Jackson said. "Especially with the age groups we've had the past two or three years, we've brought up a lot of college athletes and it's really helped us as a program."

Just last season alone, the Wreckers sent five seniors -- James Hines, Joey Zelkowitz, Colin Bannon, Quinn Mendelson and Lance Lonergan -- to the collegiate ranks.

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"It's probably the best part of my job, to help them or arrange for them to get seen by college coaches," Staples' fifth year coach Paul McNulty said. "They are the ones that put the time in, playing in the summer, working on their skills. They are the kind of players anyone would want to have on their team."

Lesch, a midfielder that missed all of last season due to a hip injury, committed to the Big Green in December 2012. The combination of academics and Dartmouth's standing as a Division I program made the choice easy.

"When these options came about, I had to think about my future and where I wanted to spend four years," Lesch said. "For lacrosse, it's a great way to spend four years, and for the future it sets me up because it's such a fantastic school. Between the academics and athletics, it was the perfect fit for me."

Gendels has been a rock in the cage for the Wreckers over the past several seasons. He had a save percentage of 63.3 last year as Staples yielded less than six goals per game in posting a 16-5 record.

"(Gendels) is a three-year starter with good experience and good leadership," McNulty said. "He has a good personality that makes him easy to work with. He has very quick hands; he can stop the ball."

Paparo, a long stick midfielder, led the team with 72 ground balls last season.

"He's a great ground ball man with excellent stick skills," McNulty said. "He can handle the ball like he has a short stick in his hands. Every year we have to find the best defenseman to play the best attackmen on the other team, and that's going to be him and (Jackson)."

Jackson is a shutdown defender that improved his game while playing for the Connecticut Chargers during the summer and fall.

"Lucas Jackson has made himself into a lacrosse player," McNulty said. "I've known him before he was in high school, and he just wanted to play. In seventh or eighth grade he switched to defense and that was his position. He was strong, he was big, and he just developed himself into a good player."

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McNulty believes the current crop of players can help the Wreckers move up the pecking order in the competitive FCIAC.

"We want to move to the upper end of the FCIAC and the state," McNulty said. "That is our goal every year and now I can tell these guys it's your tradition to carry that on."

Despite the individual accomplishments of the college-bound players, the group remains focused on helping the Wreckers improve as a program. Staples reached the Class L final last season, its first championship game appearance since 1999.

"Everyone here has a mindset of getting better and doing their best," Paparo said. "Regardless if we were going to play college or not, I think the biggest thing about this team is that a lot of kids have the right mindset."