Craig Papach has taught phys. ed. and coached boys’ lacrosse at Kennedy High School for more than two decades, and over the years, the lacrosse team has accrued many wins and earned numerous accolades. 2012, Papach said, brought one of the squad’s finest achievements.
Seven –– count ’em, seven –– senior players have been recruited to play college lacrosse, beginning in 2013-14. Less than 5 percent of all high school athletes continue with interscholastic sports in college, and only 1 to 2 percent earn scholarships, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Papach said he has had as many as four recruits in a single year, but never seven. The Kennedy Seven include Nick DiGangi, who plays defense; Ralph Faiella, long-pole midfield; Daniel Hartman, attack; Chris Jones, attack; Brandon Klein, defense; Troy Lampert, midfield; and Chris Racalbuto, midfield.
A handful of the Kennedy seniors earned scholarships at the NCAA’s Division II level. Most others will play in Division III, where no scholarships are offered.
The players’ decision-making, Papach said, was not guided by the desire to play for a highly ranked Division I squad. Their first consideration, he said, was a school’s academic program. Also, he said, many wanted to stay close to home.
In fact, one of the team’s best players, Chris Racalbuto of Merrick, who was twice named one of Nassau’s top 20 high school players, said he turned down an offer from the No. 1-ranked Division I lacrosse team in the country, Loyola University in Maryland, to play with his cousin, Ralph Faiella, also a Kennedy senior, at Adelphi University in Division II. Racalbuto said he wanted to stay close to his family, which he described as his support network.
The decision-making process, which for some began as early as 10th grade, was difficult, Papach said. “It was an emotional journey trying to make the right choice, trying to find the right school,” he said, adding that all seven made smart decisions that work for them.