New Beginnings: Mater Dei Lacrosse Programs to Begin in 2017
After three years leading the Shore Conference’s premier boys lacrosse program and taking it to new heights, Andy Eastwood has a new challenge in front of him.
Eastwood resigned as head coach at Rumson-Fair Haven in November, and after a couple months weighing his options decided to go to a place where he could start from scratch. On Jan. 17, Eastwood was introduced as the Director of Lacrosse Operations and boys head coach at Mater Dei Prep.
Lacrosse? At Mater Dei Prep? Indeed.
The Seraphs are adding boys and girls lacrosse programs at the junior varsity level starting in 2017 will schedule eight to 10 games for the inaugural season. In Eastwood they get a coach that has won Shore Conference Tournament, NJSIAA sectional and NJSIAA group titles as Rumson dominated play in the Shore.
“We are so excited to add Andy Eastwood to our staff,” said Mater Dei Prep interim athletic director Lance Bennett a press release. “He will play a pivotal role in developing both the boys and girls lacrosse programs.”
“It was just the time to move on (from Rumson),” Eastwood said. “The opportunity to go to Mater Dei I found very intriguing. With the school having the financial issues it had, the opportunity to help a school in need and make a nice, positive contribution was something I liked.”
Eastwood said he didn’t resign from Rumson with the plan of going to Mater Dei, but once he became available he began to get offers from several programs.
“When I resigned from Rumson I didn’t jump right to Mater Dei,” Eastwood said. “Once I did the phone started to ring and conversations happened. This made the most sense for me.”
Eastwood founded the Rumson-Fair Haven boys and girls lacrosse youth programs in 1997, and since then both high school teams have grown into Shore powerhouses. The boys have won six of the 12 Shore Conference Tournaments since the first SCT in 2005. Eastwood took over as Bulldogs head coach in 2014, and during his tenure Rumson went 53-15, including 37-3 vs. Shore Conference teams. Under Eastwood, Rumson won three division titles, the SCT in 2014 and 2016, and in 2015 became the first Shore Conference boys lacrosse team to win an NJSIAA group title by beating Mountain Lakes, 9-8 in overtime, to win the Group II crown.
“I have great memories from my time at Rumson,” Eastwood said. “I poured my heart and soul into Rumson lacrosse for 18 years and I’m going to miss the kids. I really liked the returning team for this coming season. There are great kids in Rumson, and I’m disappointed to not have the opportunity to be with them again, but live moves on.”
What helped facilitate Eastwood going to Mater Dei Prep is his friendship with Seraphs head football coach Dino Mangiero, who led Mater Dei to its first 12-0 season and state championship this fall in his first season. Mangiero starred at Rutgers before playing in the NFL, and Eastwood played lacrosse at Rutgers.
The experience for Eastwood going forward, at least in the immediate future, will be quite different compared to his years at Rumson. The talent pool he had to work with was excellent where as now he may not have any players with lacrosse experience when the season begins.
“It’s a great opportunity and we’re going to go slow with it,” Eastwood said. “We’ll play a very light JV schedule this year and probably next year unless we get a crazy number of kids banging down the door to play. I don’t even know how many kids will have held a stick before.”
“It will be rewarding in a different kind of way. Winning Shore Conference championships and state championships, there’s nothing like it, but when you’re a coach you get just as much satisfaction from beginners executing a concept they’ve worked on. We’ll struggle to be skilled, but when they actually execute it, I’ll get just as much joy.”
Can Mater Dei become a lacrosse power in the Shore? That will certainly be a question on the minds of many in in the lacrosse bubble of Monmouth and Ocean counties, but considering no one knows when the Seraphs will even transition to a varsity program we’re years from an answer. The guy leading the way knows how to build a winner, and that’s not a bad place to start.
Lacrosse editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.