Senior Spotlight: Seneca Valley senior maintains love of lacrosse despite pandemic

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020 | 6:47 PM


Editor’s note: Each day, Trib HSSN will spotlight WPIAL spring athletes whose senior years were cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

Noah VandeWater has a love of lacrosse.

So much so that not even a quarantine can keep him from playing.

“I pretty much play lacrosse two to three hours a day and every once in a while, I get one of my teammates out to play with me,” said VandeWater, a Seneca Valley senior. “Right now, I’m really focusing on speed and beating my defender to the net.”

The coronavirus pandemic forced the PIAA to shelve the spring sports season before the Raiders were able to play a single regular season game.

That kept VandeWater from what he hoped would be his best season to date. A senior attack, he scored 42 goals and had 24 assists last season in helping Seneca Valley reach the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals. An all-section selection, he had hopes of adding All-WPIAL and All-American laurels this year.

He finished his career with more than 100 points despite playing only five games as a sophomore, when he suffered a broken arm.

VandeWater continues to hone his game in advance of a college career, which will begin this fall at Seton Hill.

How have you been keeping busy during the coronavirus pandemic?

I’ve mostly been keeping busy by doing what I love, which is playing lacrosse. I’m super fortunate that I have a brother who plays lacrosse and all this free time has given me the opportunity to pass down all my knowledge that I have learned on the field to him. School, video games and weightlifting also help pass the time.

If there was a lacrosse season, what were you hoping to accomplish personally and as a team?

We had a very special group of players this year, and Seneca Valley had one of the best offenses in the WPIAL. I really felt like our team could’ve made it to the championship and gave whoever we played a tough time. After coming off an all-section performance last year, I really had my eyes on All-American this year, and I felt that it was achievable with solid performances against great teams.

How much practice time did you have before the shutdown?

Before everything shut down, my team and I practiced two hours a day every weekday, and me and some others would go to the field and shoot on our own during the weekends to get some extra practice in.

Why did you decide on Seton Hill?

I visited a lot of schools and I really waited until a school seemed right. A lot of coaches told me that when picking a college, you should pick the school that feels right from the second you step on campus, kind of like a “yep this is it” moment. Whenever I took my visit at Seton Hill, I knew it was for me. The school has so much personality and interesting people. That along with the small class sizes, location, majors and great lacrosse team, I was ready to go.

If I’m going to share any advice when choosing a school, it’s to be reasonable. I always wanted to play Division I lacrosse and compete at the highest stage. But as time went on, I realized that if I did go and play at a Division I school, I wouldn’t get much if any playing time and I wouldn’t play on a team that would complete for a national championship, which has always been my end goal. So with that in mind, I chose a Division II school because I know that Seton Hill has the talent capable of bringing a national championship to Greensburg and that I can play on the team and make a difference.

What do you plan to study?

I plan on studying sports management or exercise science. I love the world of sports, and I want to be involved as long as possible. My dream job would be a coach, athletic director or a strength and conditioning coach.

What do you like most about lacrosse?

There are so many aspects of lacrosse that make it, in my opinion, the best sport in the world. I’ve always loved the creativity in lacrosse, and you never know what you will see when playing or watching a lacrosse game. People are trying and pulling off new things all the time, and I’m blown away by what I see. Another reason why I love lacrosse is that it’s so fun to practice. I’ve never once felt that practice was a burden and going out on your own and shooting by yourself is always a blast, and I don’t know that applies to many other sports. Finally, I’ve always loved that you don’t always have to be the most athletic kid to be great at lacrosse because there are so many different roles and positions you can play. Sure, it helps to be fast and athletic, but if those aren’t your strengths, you can always work on your stick skills to become a good inside finisher, for example.

What position do you play?

I typically play attack and dodge/try to beat my defender from behind the net, which is a pretty unique position. I also enjoy playing midfield and dodging from up top because there is nothing quite like shooting on the run down the alley. I love all positions on the field and any position you put me at, it’ll be my favorite.

What are some of your strengths on the field?

I try my best to be a great all-around player and play where the team needs me, but I think I succeed the best as a gritty attack man who looks to beat his defender one on one and score while keeping my head up to assist teammates. I’ve developed so much as an outside shooter and inside finisher over the years, and this has led me to be a very versatile lacrosse player.

What are some of the other activities you were involved with at Seneca Valley?

I’ve focused on becoming the best lacrosse player I can be so I haven’t really gotten into any other sports or activities seriously. I wish I would’ve went back and played another sport because skills often transfer between sports.

What was your reaction like when you found out you wouldn’t be returning to school this spring?

Once the NBA started cancelling games I knew it was over for us. I told myself to stay optimistic, but deep down I knew I wouldn’t play a game this year. Knowing this really prepared myself for the news, which still crushed me anyways. It just (stinks) because me and my teammates have put in so much time and effort over the summer, fall and winter for nothing.

What have you missed most during this quarantine period?

I’ve missed being with my team the most and practicing together. My team was my second family and not seeing them for so long is crushing. I waited all winter to get on the field and make memories with them and to have that taken away is super unfortunate. I’ve also just missed seeing all of my non-lacrosse friends every day. I’m very fortunate to have an awesome friend group, and I miss all the laughs and fun we have.

What has been your favorite show to binge watch?

I haven’t watched a lot of TV over break, but one show I can always put on is “Rick and Morty.” I have been playing a lot of Call of Duty with my friends late at night, which is a great way to talk and connect while in quarantine.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

If I would give my younger self advice, it would be to spend less time watching lacrosse and spend more time playing. I would spend way more time watching, not developing myself as a player, which hurt me in the long run. I would also change my style of training. When I was younger, I wouldn’t go 100% while practicing by myself. I feel like you should approach every rep at game speed because it will help you get better acquainted with the fast place of play so you can better understand and react when it’s game time.

Who would you like to hear give a commencement speech?

Either JuJu Smith-Schuster or Lil Uzi Vert. Hard to decide, but definitely one of those two.

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at bhartlep@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TribHSInsider.

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