When Kevin Preston left his position as an assistant at Manasquan to become the head coach at St. Rose prior to the 2014 season, the first objective he had was to make sure the Purple Roses survived.

Around that time St. Rose had roughly 13 kids in the entire boys lacrosse program and was on the fringe of folding. The Belmar school is small to begin with, and without a football team to use as a pool to recruit potential players and with a baseball program that dominates the spring season, bringing the numbers up was a huge challenge.

Through relentless effort and with a vision to build a competitive program in the Shore, Preston guided the Purple Roses to their best season ever in 2017. Four years after taking over a program on the verge of being eliminated, St. Rose set a program record for wins in a season and scored the biggest upset in the history of the Shore Conference Tournament. For his efforts in leading St. Rose to new heights, Preston has been selected as the 2017 Shore Sports Network Boys Lacrosse Coach of the Year.

St. Rose's Kevin Preston is the 2017 SSN Boys Lacrosse Coach of the Year. (Photo by Micahel Scotto).

“Just seeing the process come to fruition this year was a pretty incredible experience,” Preston said. “Four years ago most of the kids were just athletes who were new to lacrosse. We were building lacrosse players. We have an incredible parent group that supports us and a great coaching staff. It’s cool to see how it came from almost nothing.”

Four years ago Preston was looking for anyone to come out and join the team. He recruited some kids off the hockey team who didn’t play a spring sport. He had 10 freshman come out for the team, but most had never picked up a lacrosse stick before. It didn’t matter, he just needed bodies. One of the few players with extensive lacrosse experience also happened to be one of the best players in the Shore: junior Matt Frost. The current Quinnipiac University starter helped Preston build a foundation, and the Roses went 7-8 that season to bounce back from a 3-12 campaign the year before.

St. Rose went 7-10 in 2015, Frost’s senior season, but stumbled last year with a relatively young group to go 5-11. Coming into this season, however, Preston saw a squad that was ready to take the next step.

“In March we could see that we now had a group of lacrosse players,” Preston said. “We were able to come into this season with a deep team, not just one or two players, and that made the difference.”

One of the players who was recruited to the team with no prior experience ended up setting the program’s single-season goals record this season. Senior attackman Chris Bormida scored 55 goals to break Frost’s previous record of 53, and did so with just three years of lacrosse experience. As a freshman Bormida was a baseball player.

St. Rose's Chris Bormida. (Photo by Paula Lopez).

“He came out sophomore year and was the definition of most improved every year,” Preston said. “He went from scoring around seven goals to 13 as a junior to 55 this year. His hard work was incredible.”

Senior attackman Griffin McDermott started as a freshman in the midfield, then moved to defense and finally settled in as an attackman. He scored 41 goals with 27 assists to tie Bormida for the team lead in points with 68. McDermott was one of the players who led the recruiting effort within the school, and along with defenseman Hunter Harms and goalie Robbie Brugnoli formed the senior nucleus of the team.

St. Rose started the season 3-0 and stood at 8-4 through the month of April. Among those victories was a 12-5 win over a solid Holmdel team. The win that made everybody in the Shore take notice, however, came on May 6 in the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament. Brugnoli made 25 saves, Bormida scored four times and McDermott had three goals and one assist as the Purple Roses, seeded No. 14, took down No. 3 Southern, 8-7, for the biggest upset in SCT history.

“That was definitely the kind of game we look back on and see how it was everything we had been working toward,” Preston said. “We had been able to get over the hump against the middle group of teams but to win over a team like Southern that had won the SCT recently, it was the cherry on top of the season.”

“Going into the season we didn’t have that expectation. We didn’t know how good we could be until halfway through the season when we started to realize how talented we were and that we had a big win or two in us. In the Southern game it all came together at the right time. If we play them 10 more times we might lose 10 in a row, but on that day we proved how good we can be when everything comes together.”

St. Rose fell to St. John Vianney in the SCT quarterfinals and was edged by Oratory Prep in the first round of the NJSIAA Non-Public B playoffs, but those defeats certainly did not sour a season that saw the Purple Roses finally break through.

“My message to the players after the season is that we’re not building anymore, we’re going to challenge and fight to get into the tournament every year,” Preston said. “We’ve gotten over the hump and now it’s time to do more and prove ourselves in the Shore Conference.”

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.