MANALAPAN – It was always rough when spring came around and Manalapan High School senior Mike DeMayo would look at social media posts and see his friends and other athletes around the Shore Conference talking about playing high school lacrosse.
Because Manalapan High School did not offer lacrosse, the only option DeMayo had during the spring was to work on his skills while he waited to play in the summer for the Team 91 New Jersey South lacrosse program.
For several years, DeMayo and his fellow upperclassmen who play lacrosse teamed up with the Manalapan Youth Lacrosse Club to push to have a boys lacrosse team at the high school.
DeMayo’s confidence never wavered. He said he knew the community supported the effort and that eventually he and his friends would be able to play for the Braves.
That chance was supposed to come in 2020, but after five practice sessions, COVID-19 hit New Jersey, spring sports were cancelled and the Braves’ inaugural campaign was pushed back to 2021.
This spring, DeMayo and his senior teammates Matt Sadler and Ray Vender are finally getting their opportunity to play in Manalapan’s inaugural season.
“It’s been awesome. We have been looking forward to getting a program in the high school and finally getting a chance to play and it’s been awesome,” DeMayo said.
The success that Eric Stein and the township’s youth lacrosse program has had over the last six years led to the establishment of the high school program, Manalapan High School varsity lacrosse coach Nick Filippone said.
“A lot of these guys have played in the youth program. I’m fortunate to have a lot of kids who played lacrosse growing up. They have a shot now to play high school lacrosse and it’s been something they have been looking forward to for a long time,” the coach said.
Filippone said his players trained together once a week during the winter and played in an indoor league to make certain they would be ready to compete in the spring.
Manalapan made its official debut on April 19 against Central Regional High School in Bayville. The performance was a success as the Braves won, 16-1.
The season opening victory was an awesome feeling, said Filippone, who was pleased his players and their parents had a chance to experience the moment after the disappointment of not playing in 2020.
“It will be a moment they will never forget. They worked really hard in the off-season to be ready to go,” the coach said about his team’s debut.
Manalapan is 2-2 after four games. DeMayo, who plans to play at Drew University, leads the Braves with seven goals and six assists.
Freshman Anthony Macchio has made an impact with five goals and four assists. Junior Frankie D’Amore and freshman Grant Carle have each scored four goals.
Junior Richie Williams scored his first two goals in a 17-4 loss to Howell on April 28.
“It’s really been a great experience so far,” Filippone said. “The guys are completely in it. The parents and the whole community are in it. It’s a great atmosphere and we are really excited about the future.”
Manalapan is scheduled to host Christian Brothers Academy on May 4.
Filippone believes competing against top teams in the Shore Conference like Howell and CBA will help his players improve and learn how to play at a faster pace.
No matter the results to come, all of the players are enjoying the opportunity to play high school lacrosse and are loving every minute of what they are doing.
“To finally come out and play as a team is awesome,” DeMayo said with a smile.