Michael Scardelletti’s family has deep roots in Lawrence High School soccer. His father, Rico, and uncle were major parts of a winning program in the ’70s. His brother, Anthony, is a 2014 graduate who had an opportunity to walk onto the James Madison University squad before a knee injury ended his career. His sister, Erica, also played on the girls’ team.
He hears the comparisons at annual alumni games and gatherings, when Rico’s old teammates tend to hold Scardelletti in the same light as his dad and brother. He even got to play with Anthony during his freshman year. The older brother was a center midfielder, with gifted vision and a high motor.
“He would pick out a pass nobody could see,” Scardelletti said. “He was a hard worker off the ball. He kept the drive going, and thats what I like to do now.”
Even if Scardelletti wanted to deviate from the mold of his family, it would be too hard to figure out how. Rico was a coach on his earlier travel teams, using the car rides home to give his son a history lesson.
“His background stories get me really fired up,” Scardelletti said. “He talked about the friends he made through soccer, how they came together and took it all the way. He talks about how the culture was a winning culture, and it’s sort of fallen in Lawrence.”
After three losing losing seasons at the varsity level the senior has a burdensome goal to cap his career. And he’s ready to make his own mark on the LHS program.
“I’m working really hard to bring Lawrence back to where it used to be,” Scardelletti said.
The year bodes well for the Cardinals, though. Head coach Keith Fithen said Scardelletti’s aggressive style of play leads a “strong nucleus” of 15 seniors and six juniors on the varsity squad. Scardelletti has been a captain since the middle of his sophomore season, Fithen said, as injuries and poor performance marred a 2-13 campaign. With Scardelletti’s class—including starters Will Bidle, Gab Baffuto and Tyler Hughes—improving to 4-11-4 last season, there’s high hopes for at least a winning record in 2016.
“As a returning captain, he’s worked really hard with the team in the offseason,” Fithen said. “We went through tourneys, team camps, summer sessions. The kids have bought into it, and Michael is one of our leaders in buying into it.”
As a 22-year coaching veteran, Fithen recognizes that Scardelletti has “all the tools.” A midfielder, his strength is defense, and he has exceptional skill in breaking down defenders in one-on-one situations. He led the team in scoring in summer scrimmages, Fithen said, and he’s expected to keep the team in “our right shape” with his production.
Scardelletti compares his own game to Anthony’s—technically gifted, physically sound, good vision and good defense. If there’s any weakness, it’s his excitement for the game.
“I’m very passionate about playing,” Scardelletti said. “Sometimes you get too caught up in the energy and lose composure and lose the ball a lot.”
The most important things Scardelletti needs to succeed this season are good health and the ability to keep himself on the field, Fithen said. Scardelletti has worked on playing with a cooler demeanor, but part of his leadership role means setting the tone for the other 10 guys. Sometimes that tone needs to be a little agitated.
“When you play a little frantic, everyone feels the heat,” Scardelletti said. “Sometimes even when I’m not working hard, the team gives me that energy. I feed the team, but the team feeds me.”
It helps playing a core of friends that have been teammates for the past decade. Scardelletti said there’s a lot of familiarity with each other this season, afters years of meshing at the lower levels of play. They’ve developed a confidence that they can give top-tier teams some trouble this season.
“I’m pretty sure we won once against Princeton my freshman year, and same with Hopewell,” Scardelletti said. “Since then, we haven’t been able to compete.”
Scardelletti got a minor ankle sprain against Delaware Valley Regional on Sept. 10, and was out for just over a week—the longest he’s ever had to sit due to injury. Lawrence was to play Princeton Sept. 27 and Hopewell on Oct. 5. At press time, Scardelletti was set to be back on the field for those games.
Fithen believes the longtime captain could end the season with county and state-level recognitions, but he needs a collective team effort for postseason play to come into consideration. That part of Rico’s car ride stories isn’t lost on Scardelletti—that the memories of success were made amongst friends, not alone.
“If everything goes well, a state run will be great,” Scardelletti said. “Talking now, I would say just playing with my friends here—a group of guys coming out every day and having fun—that’s what I’ll remember most.”