Members Of Wellington High School’s Boys Lacrosse Team Leave Their Mark
Among the most competitive and close-knit lacrosse players in the nation are the eight seniors who formed the nucleus of the 2020 Wellington High School varsity boys lacrosse team.
This group of eight Wellington Wolverines were the backbone of what was perhaps the best boys lacrosse team in school history. Yet due to the COVID-19 shutdown, this year’s team didn’t get a chance to fulfill its destiny — a strong run in the post-season with the realistic hope of reaching the boys lacrosse state finals for the first time in school history.
Going into the season, optimism was high that this year’s WHS boys lacrosse team would do very well. That was confirmed when the squad had a splendid start to the season, winning seven of its first eight games. And then the season came to a grinding halt.
Despite the stoppage, the memories of the lacrosse season will remain alive and well for years to come for these eight seniors, who have been playing together for many years, starting with their days with the Wellington Wolfpack travel team, while enrolled at Wellington Elementary School.
Those eight seniors are Matt Granaroli, Aaron Thompson, Bryce Schwager, Andrew Crosby, Connor Anthony, Kylle Epstein, Jeremiah Rogan and Teddy Miloch.
All of them have strong and positive memories of their time playing lacrosse together, as well as spending time together away from the field.
While they will be forever linked as lacrosse teammates, their bond is as strong off the lacrosse field as it has been on the lacrosse field.
“We grew up together. We have that team chemistry,” Granaroli said. “We just don’t think twice about where to go and what to do. Most of us have known each other since grade school at Wellington Elementary. Ever since we met each other in school, we all became best buddies. It’s not a team. It’s a brotherhood. We all hang out together.”
“We’ve known each other for so long,” Thompson added. “I have great memories of traveling to tournaments, staying at the hotels and hanging out with one another.”
“I’m going to miss my teammates,” Schwager said. “My best memories are going to travel tournaments, staying up until 2 a.m. in the hotel and then having to get up at 6 a.m. to get ready for a game. Our coaches were not happy.”
“As we got older, we all managed not to go our own separate ways,” Crosby added. “We stuck together, grew together and played as a family. We function well — both on and off the field.”
As they ponder life after high school, they each know exactly what they’ll miss.
“I will miss the strong friendships that I made through lacrosse,” Anthony said.
“We’ve all been friends,” Epstein added. “Our bond is more than lacrosse.”
“I learned a lot from my teammates, especially the lessons about teamwork,” Rogan explained.
“Lacrosse connected us and bonded us together,” Miloch said. “The most memorable parts of travel lacrosse were all the tournaments we attended.”
While playing high school lacrosse, each player had a separate role to play. Every player’s athletic attributes complemented one another, according to Wellington High School lacrosse head coach Johnny Hernandez and assistant coach Joe Calby.
Hernandez’s memories of these eight seniors are profound.
“Matt Granaroli was Mr. Fundamentals. He’s a player who knew his role on the team. He grew up from a 5-foot-nothing freshman to a 6-foot-1 stud in four years,” he said. “Aaron Thompson is a finisher. If he gets the ball in his stick, he’s either scoring a goal or making an assist. Bryce Schwager is a mentally tough kid. He’s a real competitor. Teddy Miloch has been a starter since day one. He did what we asked of him, and he excelled at it. He has a great attitude and gave great input.”
Each of the players gave it their all on their field, Calby said.
“Andrew Crosby was our biggest competitor. He doesn’t want to come in second to anybody. He was having a stellar senior year,” the coach continued. “Connor Anthony was the muscle on the team. He became an incredible leader. Kylle Epstein was the emotion of the team. He had the highest lacrosse IQ. Jeremiah Rogan was the quiet, funny guy on the team, and he’s a hard worker.”
Calby’s recollections are also filled with superlatives.
“Matt Granaroli was dedicated to getting the job done right. He made very few mistakes on the field,” he said. “Aaron Thompson is fast and shifty. He’s a good offensive player. Bryce Schwager was one of our true, strong, grit players. He’s tough and physical. Teddy Miloch’s a great offensive player. He understands how the offense is meant to work on the field. He’s a little coach on the field.”
It is a group of people that Calby will clearly miss.
“Andrew Crosby was our best player. He’s a perfectionist. You can’t slow him down. He doesn’t want to come off the field. He’s always looking to be the best on the field,” Calby continued. “Connor Anthony has a big body and was a great defender. He displayed great leadership. He was a team captain. He held the team together on the field. Kylle Epstein was a second coach on the field. He’s a great stick technician. He’s a hard-core player who is very physical on defense.”
Calby also referred to Epstein and Anthony as “the dynamic duo of the defense.”
“Jeremiah Rogan showed lots of grit. He’s a strong midfielder who was strong on the transition [from defense to offense]. He brought lots of intangibles to the team that didn’t appear on the stat sheet,” Calby said.
While each had amazing individual skills, what sets these players apart is what they did as a unit.
“I’m very proud of what this group accomplished as a team,” Hernandez said. “We had a great fall season. We played in three tournaments and made the championship final in each event.”
Calby said that the 2020 team was the best boys lacrosse team ever fielded at Wellington High School.
“It was a special group of players. Lacrosse has given their friendship adhesive they will hold for a lifetime,” he said. “Wins and losses will fade over the years, but they will always remember and love the game and how they played it together.”
One of this group’s biggest team highlights took place when they were sophomores in 2018. That year, Wellington defeated rival Palm Beach Central High School 5-4 after four overtime periods.
This past spring, the team’s biggest win was a 15-6 victory over Vero Beach High School. It was Wellington’s first-ever boys lacrosse victory against the Indians.
Wellington’s only loss this spring was to Jupiter High School, but it’s worth noting that Wellington actually led at halftime, which was a program first.
As for their futures playing lacrosse, some are committed to staying in the game.
Thompson plans to attend Santa Fe College in Gainesville and play for UF’s club lacrosse team. Epstein will play college lacrosse at the New York Institute of Technology.
Crosby plans to attend Florida State University and play club lacrosse. Anthony is also headed to FSU in the fall, where he plans to room with Crosby. “I’m thinking about playing for the men’s lacrosse club at FSU,” Anthony said.
Miloch will also be attending FSU, but he’s not sure about playing collegiate club lacrosse, as he’s now more interested in body building.
As for Granaroli, don’t be surprised if he plays college lacrosse, because he is a perfect fit for the sport. “As a sport, lacrosse is so much better for me,” Granaroli said. “I love the running part of lacrosse, and it’s a fun sport.”
Schwager will be attending the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Right now, he doesn’t plan on playing club lacrosse, but he doesn’t rule it out.
While this year’s eight seniors were focused on producing a memorable and historic season, they were also focused on the program’s future. At the beginning of pre-season practice, each senior was assigned a younger player to mentor in order to teach what is necessary to succeed.
Clearly, a blueprint for future success for boys lacrosse at Wellington High School was established. To their credit, these elite eight seniors were as focused on the program’s future as they were on its present.