David Mattia still had company at the top of the WW-P High School South boys lacrosse record book last year.
The senior scored two goals in the sixth-seeded Pirate boys lacrosse team’s 11-6 loss to third-seeded Robbinsville in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals on May 5.
The two goals gave him 57 for the season to snap the single-season goal scoring record of 55 that he had shared with Alex Rohrbach from 2011.
“Last year I was pretty upset that I only tied it,” Mattia said. “It’s definitely cool this year to have it as my own.”
Mattia still had two regular-season games and potentially the state tournament to add to his record-setting season that has been even more enjoyable because the Pirates have played better than a year ago. Even in some of the team’s losses, they have proven far more competitive than a year ago.
“We’re definitely way happier with how we’re playing this year against the good teams like Robbinsville and Hightstown,” Mattia said. “I think we’re just playing fast and having fun and everyone knows what they need to do in order to be competitive every game.”
Mattia has done his part. He scored six goals in a 7-6 overtime win over Princeton High to highlight the season on May 1. It’s the first time since 2012 that the program had topped Princeton. Last year, they lost 13-2 to Princeton.
“I definitely think experience has helped a lot,” Mattia said. “Back in the day we’d always lose close games. This year, we’re finally winning them, like the Princeton game.”
“That was huge,” he adds. “It was my first time ever beating Princeton. Once the seniors from a couple years ago heard about us beating Princeton, they all texted me and my friends. It was really awesome.”
Staring the year, Mattia and the Pirates came in with higher expectations. He is one of a dozen seniors that came into the season motivated to improve.
“A lot of them have made contributions over the course of the season,” said Pirates head coach Mike Sheehan.
Sheehan, who was previously an assistant coach, moved up to head coach this to replace Geoff Chrisman, who took over at North Hunterdon.
“When I stepped in, we didn’t try to change too much,” said Sheehan, who is also the head coach of the boys basketball team. “We play the same defense as last year. Offensively, not much has changed. Having a group that’s done it for two years, they understand the system and what we’re trying to do on both sides of the ball.”
‘The thing about David is you can’t take your eye off him. Just when he looks like he’s not looking to shoot or running away from pressure, he can get the ball off in the blink of an eye.’
WW-P South pulled away from Steinert with a 5-0 third quarter to win their first-round matchup in the MCT, 12-5 on May 3.
Gordon Hesterberg made 10 saves, Mattia had five goals and an assist, Nicolas Tello had five assists and 14 ground balls, Nikhil Ramakrishna won 18 of 20 faceoffs he took, Charles Jiang had three goals and an assist, Tyler Shankoff had a goal and assist, and Max Bruno, Luke Cerrito and Josh Daly had one goal apiece while Ramakrishna, Griffin Bruno and Cole Sayde had an assist each.
“The big key is experience,” Sheehan said. “David and Nick along with Charles, they played all together last season and built a good chemistry. Gordy, our goaltender, Nikhil, our faceoff midfielder is one of a number of midfielders back. The guys back were hungry to show improvement, especially with so many seniors. They wanted to leave their mark this year. They’ve practiced hard, worked hard, and been good teammates to each other.”
Sheehan has been happy with the development he has seen in his team. He likes the attitude of the team and how they have responded to him.
“The last two years, the kids have been very motivated, very invested in what we’re trying to do,” Sheehan said. “Geoff did a good job of getting that started. When I took over, there was a good foundation. We expected to go out and compete and play hard. The kids all bought in that if we do that, we’ll be successful as a team. That’s evident in our improvement from last season.”
WW-P South is looking for the chance to do well in the state tournament to further emphasize their growth. They didn’t advance out of the first round last year.
“It would be awesome to make states,” Mattia said. “Just to compete in states is really awesome. We were in states the last two years, and I think we won a game my sophomore year.”
Two years ago Mattia and his class started to come into their own, and Mattia started to show the sort of goal scorer he could become.
“I definitely never thought that I would score this many goals,” Mattia said. “Freshman year, I think I had 12. Sophomore year was pretty special. We had a bunch of amazing seniors that would pass to us. They would trust us and they let me and my friend, Nick (Ramakrishna), do whatever we could to help the team out.”
It gave the then-sophomores confidence and they built on it over their final two seasons together. Tello tied for second all-time in WW-P South history with 49 assists last year, and his 108 assists are tied for fourth all-time on the program’s career list.
“My teammates set me up a lot for my shots, especially Nick Tello,” Mattia said. “He had close to 50 assists last year. He’s a really good passer.
“We definitely know where we’re going,” he added. “We’ve played with each other I don’t know how many years, maybe close to eight years. I know where Nick’s going to be, and he knows where I’m going to be. It seems to work.”
Mattia has finished off more goals this season than anyone in Pirates history, and he’s among the top scorers in program history overall. He sits third behind Dave Twamley’s 196 goals and Jon Matthews’ 190 goals for the career goals mark despite opponents trying to account for him.
“He gets a lot of attention from teams,” Sheehan said. “The thing about David is you can’t take your eye off him. Just when he looks like he’s not looking to shoot or running away from pressure, he can get the ball off in the blink of an eye. He’s a great teammates and good leader for our team. That attack group has built off a tremendous amount of chemistry with Nick and Charles. David works hard and it’s paid off for him this year.”
Mattia could play at the club level next year at Indiana University. The graduation of him and his class will leave WW-P South with some holes to fill for next year, and they will be counting on new faces in bigger roles next season.
“It’s going to be tough at first,” Mattia said. “I think our junior class is only four kids, but I’m pretty confident in our sophomores and freshmen right now because they’ve been proving throughout this season that they can play a pretty high level.”