By Matthew Rocco
Mater Dei Prep will expand its athletic program this spring, saying it will play lacrosse for the first time in school history.
The Seraphs, who have made great strides in football and basketball, plan to field boys’ and girls’ junior varsity lacrosse teams in time for the 2017 season. Andrew Eastwood, Mater Dei’s new director of lacrosse operations, hopes to schedule eight to 10 games during the inaugural season.
The school’s grand plan calls for a boys’ varsity team within three years and a girls’ varsity team in two years.
Eastwood is encouraging current Mater Dei athletes to try out for the new lacrosse teams.
“Lacrosse is similar to basketball and soccer. It’s about playing the angles and moving your feet and having good hand-eye coordination,” he said.
Eastwood will serve as the boys’ head coach. The school is searching for a coach who will lead the girls’ team.
The expansion of Mater Dei’s athletic program comes two years after the Middletown school said it would close in June 2015. Those plans changed after a flood of donations allowed Mater Dei to keep its doors open.
Eastwood sees his new job as an opportunity to help Mater Dei start a “new chapter” and “present another reason for kids to attend a great school,” he said in a statement to announce the creation of a lacrosse program.
The former Rutgers University lacrosse player previously served as the boys’ varsity coach at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School. Eastwood founded the Bulldogs’ youth lacrosse program in 1997 and later worked on obtaining board approval for a boys’ lacrosse team. He took over as head coach from 2014 to 2016. While Eastwood was at the helm, Rumson-Fair Haven won two Shore Conference Tournaments and an NJSIAA Group I title.
“What he has accomplished with so many student-athletes on the field is remarkable, but even more outstanding is the tremendous character and integrity he displays, which perfectly aligns with our vision here at Mater Dei Prep,” Mater Dei Interim Athletic Director Lance Bennett said.