July 1, 2020

Although Hun Boys’ Lacrosse Started 0-2, It Showed Potential Before Season Canceled

STICKING POINT: Hun School boys’ lacrosse player Trevor Deubner, right, battles to get past a foe in a game last spring. Senior star attackman and University of North Carolina-bound Deubner was primed to quarterback Hun’s high-powered offense in his final campaign. The Raiders totaled 21 goals as they started 0-2 before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Even though the Hun School boys’ lacrosse team got off to a 0-2 start this spring, Jeff Snow felt fortunate.

Hun fell 14-9 to St. Stephens & St. Agnes School (Va.) in its season opener on March 10 and then lost 13-12 to Penn Charter (Pa.) a day later. But by the end of the week, schools were closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak and then weeks later the spring sports season was formally canceled.

“We were one of the lucky schools — the only one in New Jersey to the best of my knowledge — to have actually played two games,” said Hun head coach Snow, a former assistant with the program who took the helm this spring, succeeding previous head coach MV Whitlow after he stepped down last fall.

“In the past we had gone to the desert of Arizona to train, but we felt that this group needed to be challenged and play right away.”

Snow was encouraged by how the Hun offense clicked in the two games and saw good things on the horizon.

“Inside Lacrosse had us ranked 14th in the nation when the season ended,” noted Snow.

“Although we were beaten, we felt we were headed in the right direction.”

The team’s Class of 2020 showed the right stuff as it looked to go out on a high note.

“We did have a special group of seniors; a group so special that we created a schedule to truly challenge who they had become as players,” said Snow, whose corps of seniors included Trevor Deubner, Grant Hansen, Charlie White, Gabe Craven, Michael Cardinalli, Anthony Bell, Chris Brake, Felix Turcotte, Connor McDonough, and Thomas Paolino.

“Seven starters were seniors this year so we were really veteran. They were poised and were ready to just blow out this year. We were scheduled to play teams from Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and two from Canada — including perennial power, Hill Academy. This would have been the toughest schedule in the history of our program.”

Noting that the Raiders
totaled 21 goals in those first two games against tough competition, Snow believed that the squad had the makings of a high-powered attack.

“I am so bummed because we had guys who were in the program for four years,” said Snow.

“We were going to run an offense that was a watered down version of what Penn State does. We had that kind of talent this year.”

Snow was depending on senior star Trevor Deubner to lead that offense.

“Trevor is the prototypical X-attackman who quarterbacks an offense; what makes him so special is his ability to make any team pay for sliding to him,” said Snow, noting that Deubner tallied 182 points in his Hun career on 77 goals and 105 assists and has committed to attend the University of North Carolina and play for its men’s lax program.

“Before you can blink his no-look pass has split the seam to the backside of the defense for a high percentage shot. His work all summer prepared him to be more of a scoring threat while not diminishing his ability to be the best feeder on the field. His development of the two-man game also enabled us to begin using some of the same looks you would find at Penn State.”

The athletic Hansen, a University of Maryland commit who had 82 goals and 31 assists for the Raiders, was another big offensive threat.

“He possesses a deceptively quick first step and is comfortable dodging downhill or sweeping across the top,” said Snow.

“We have been inverting him for two years now and he is comfortable behind the cage as well as above it. He also has been our best midfield defensive player and could be seen on the field with a long pole playing man-down defense for us.”

Another senior, White, had developed a comfort level around the goal.

“Charlie is the stereotypical late-bloomer who has played with us since his freshman year, but didn’t see the field until last year when he became a starter,” said Snow of White, who tallied 35 goals in his Hun career and is headed to
Salisbury University.

“Smaller than Grant and Trevor, Charlie may have worked harder to prepare his body in the off-season than anyone has in years. His increased stature had improved his confidence and his improved IQ made him the most dangerous off-ball player we have had since Brendan Rooney (who went on to star at Yale) graduated in 2015.”

A pair of post-grads, Mike Cardinalli and Connor McDonough, had put in some good work during their short time with the Raiders.

“Mike was an exciting addition to our team, offering us another talented attackman who works well in space with and without the ball and offers us another distributor,” said Snow of Cardinalli, a Hobart College recruit.

“Mike quickly assimilated into our offensive schematic and worked really well with Deubner in two-man games. Connor came to us from State College, Pa., where he was a pretty solid downhill dodger who could finish to the far side of the net. He is on his way to Catholic University.”

The Hun back line was led by defender Bell, a Penn commit, and goalie Craven, who is headed to the Naval Academy.

“Anthony is a tall, lean, strong defenseman who loves to get the ball in open space; he takes risks and once harnessed, his aggressiveness will be an asset,” said Snow.

“Gabe came to us in his sophomore year and started for his junior and senior years. Combining his stats at Hun with his freshman year stats at Peddie, Gabe’s save percentage is greater than 60 percent with over 300 saves. As reliable as Gabe has been in the net, his work developing and leading a very young defense this year was a perfect way to slide into his work at Navy.”

The trio of Brake, Turcotte, and Paolino, played key supporting roles for the squad.

“Chris was the heart and soul of this team; that character who can lighten the mood when needed, who managed the tone and tempers of a pretty serious locker room,” asserted Snow.

“Felix came to us out of nowhere last year and played short-stick defense in spots. When asked if he could switch to a pole this spring, his answer was simply, ‘whatever is the best for the team.’ Thomas was just happy to be with us and understood he would not be playing in our higher end games. There is a special spot in my heart for players who just want to be around success and put in the work even if they don’t receive the accolades.”

Once school was closed, Snow kept in touch with his players virtually through Zoom meetings.

“I have probably met more with the seniors and the juniors at this point,” said Snow.

“The seniors, No. 1, because they had so much riding on the season. They have really just been beat up by it but also helping them to stay connected with each other to keep working out because they are on their way to bigger, better things. My whole message has been look, this is about a journey we have been on and part of the journey was to get Trevor to North Carolina and to get Grant to Maryland. You guys need to be ready to step on the field next year.”

With Hun having hired veteran college and pro coach Jim Stagnitta to guide the program next year, Snow, who will stay on the staff as an assistant coach, has been focusing in getting the juniors on the same page.

“For the juniors it is about making sure that understand what is at stake next year,” said Snow.

“They really were the ones that needed this season the most to develop into the leaders that we are going to need next year. I am trying to help them to understand how important their role is going to be this summer but also when we get to campus in September in creating the environment that we need that supports the new kids we bring into the program as well as making sure everybody is on board with the hard work that it takes.”

Snow is on board with the hiring of Stagnitta. “It was definitely a move in the right direction,” said Snow, noting that Stagnitta’s standing in the lacrosse world and previous work with young players should be a drawing card for the program.

“I think he has some kids in the pipeline already, which is going to be essential. I have had several conversations with him and it is a good fit.”

Looking ahead to next season, Snow believes that relishing every moment on the field will be even more essential than in the past.

“I have been doing this for over 30 years and I have never experienced anything at all close to this,” said Snow, who previously coached at Bedford High (Mass.), Lawrence Academy (Mass.), and the Gilman School (Md.).

“It humbles you and certainly I think the one thing we have all learned is this could all be taken away from us in a second and we have no control over that. You only have control over what you do in the moment so it is taking advantage of every day and hopefully you get the reward of playing and being close to each other on the field and sharing the success and the heartache.”