Freeport boys lacrosse looks forward to promising future

Monday, May 15, 2023 | 10:02 AM

Freeport boys lacrosse lost 12 graduates, including nine starters, from last year’s team. This season, the Yellowjackets added nine freshmen, seven of whom entered the starting lineup at times.

First-year coach Matt Hanak said he knew there would be growing pains with the young lineup but saw much improvement throughout the season.

“A large portion of the starters and contributors on the team are underclassmen,” Hanak said. “Despite all of those extra challenges that presented early this year, and frankly, are still presenting, these guys are still working hard and having fun. That much has been obvious. It’s held us together and allowed us to probably pull out a couple of wins that were a bit of a surprise.”

Freeport entered the week 4-6 and held out hopes of finishing with a .500 winning percentage.

The lacrosse team, which launched in 2014, is relatively new at Freeport compared to other programs. Hanak looks forward to what the future holds, especially with the youth feeder system continuing to develop.

“We’re going to have some really nice years ahead of us considering the amount of experience that a lot of our younger freshman and sophomore players are bringing, not only throughout the youth program but now, I have anywhere between five and seven freshmen starting and making significant contributions on our varsity teams,” Hanak said. “As that progresses through our system, there’s going to be good years ahead.”

Attack Nate Covey, who will golf and play lacrosse at Westminster, commended the underclassmen for exceeding expectations.

“We have a lot of young guys, and we’re only graduating five seniors this year,” Covey said. “… A lot of guys had a big role to play, and I think the freshmen did a fantastic job at it, especially on defense. You can only expect so much from a freshman group, but what you expect — they go beyond that.”

Covey added that the freshmen and sophomores have fight and competitiveness.

“The underclassmen, they come to play and they come and work,” Covey said. “I think every coach and every upperclassman appreciates that when it comes to game time. Everyone’s ready to play. When you’re playing bigger schools and bigger teams, we never really looked down at it like ‘We’re just going to lose this.’ It’s more like, ‘We’re going to play hard and hope for the best.’”

Hanak said even though it’s a smaller group, the senior class played a huge role in the development of the underclassmen. He also said they are coachable and are great leaders.

“We have a great group of seniors, great leadership, really embracing the fact that the future of the program is embodied in the freshmen and sophomores that we have playing,” Hanak said. “A lot of those seniors that have been playing eight to 10, even 11 years, they have a lot to impart to the youngsters, and they’re doing a great job with that.”

Covey, a team captain, built a relationship with the underclassmen. Other than junior Mason Lowes, the entire defense is made up of freshmen and sophomores. Covey said freshman Andrew Ross has shown a lot of heart and will be a leader as he develops.

“I want to help these guys out because I love the sport so much,” Covey said. “If I get to spread any type of wisdom to some kid struggling, I will go off to help them. I work with the younger guys. It’s honestly a blessing because they all know what they’re doing.”

Covey mentioned that coaches JJ Raab and Andrew Monks helped the team implement offensive and defensive schemes and different types of shooting. He added the coaches brought the younger players an understanding of the game at a higher level.

Nate Legin, Freeport’s goaltender and a team captain, said he enjoyed watching the team get used to the high school level and sees a promising future.

“A lot of them have played and have great skill, but they haven’t developed in high school play style,” Legin said. “In the upcoming years, I could definitely see them being really big contenders for WPIALs.”

Legin said he’ll miss playing with the senior class and he always enjoyed playing with his classmates.

“They always pick me up whenever we’re down,” Legin said. “We always lean on each other. We always support each other.”

Covey mentioned that senior night was special because of the history the group had together.

“It’s a brotherhood,” Covey said. “We all have each other’s back, and it’s not even just seniors. It’s the whole team. We all can just talk to each other not even about lacrosse and that’s what’s really nice.”

Covey added how much the closeness of the senior class meant to him and the team.

“It’s an emotional night for all the seniors, but our senior class is really tight-knit,” Covey said. “We all have each other’s backs, and we’ve been playing with each other for a while. That will be really different when I move up to the next level.”

Legin, who will be going to Penn State to study pre-medicine next year, said his most memorable lacrosse moment was a shutout he had in lacrosse. He now is spreading his knowledge to his sister, Abby Legin, who is a freshman goalie for the girls team.

“Ever since she signed up, I’d go to the practice every day show her and teach her how to play lacrosse,” Legin said. “From nothing to in the first week I was teaching her how to step to the ball, proper stick movement and she really excelled in that.”

It’s another step forward for the Freeport lacrosse programs, which appear to be trending in the right direction, especially at the youth level.

“We have a lot to look forward to,” Hanak said. “Not only in terms of the numbers and the underclassmen that have made significant contributions right now, but also looking down the pipeline at our youth program. We have a lot to look forward to.”

Covey will turn his focus to playing golf and lacrosse at the collegiate level, but he looks forward to seeing the Freeport lacrosse program grow.

“For us. It’s a newer sport,” Covey said. “There’s a lot more interest in it and our feeder program is starting to really come up. I think in the next couple of years, we’ll be competing with Mars and all of them just because of our feeder program. Right now, our U14 team is undefeated. I feel like there’s a promising way to look at it, especially for the younger guys on the team.”


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