Nighthawks lacrosse has strong start

Published 2:12 pm Monday, April 1, 2024

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With emotional momentum on their side, First Flight’s varsity lacrosse team easily up-ended visiting Kellam 17 goals to 7 last Tuesday night in Kill Devil Hills.

Coach John Van Lunen said his guys came out fired up after experiencing a wide range of emotions last week after many attended Gwen Botson’s wake last Thursday and funeral Saturday. The Nighthawks girls team alumna and 2023 graduate died recently from cancer, something she battled bravely for a long time.

Her brother Logan is a junior attackman on the boys squad and the two were close. They both wore the No. 21 jersey on their respective teams. Gwen played in games last spring despite her pain and frequent hospital stays.

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Coach Van Lunen said the young men recollected themselves in Monday’s practice and then took care of business in the Tuesday match.

“They played their hearts out,” he said. “What else can you ask?”

The Nighthawks have off this coming week for spring break, but the veteran coach thinks they’re ready for more great lacrosse this season. The team sometimes fit in three games a week by having Monday, Wednesday and Friday or Saturday matches.

“Three games a week is something they never do in college,” he added.

Speaking of college lacrosse and spring break, Syracuse University’s Division I men’s team spent part of their break practicing at the new field behind the old fire station in Kill Devil Hills next to the Dare Centre.

The Syracuse Orange men, as they’re known, are considered a dynasty in the sport with 15 total NCAA national championships. In Atlantic Coast Conference action, they go head-to-head with some other powerhouse programs including Virginia with seven championships, Carolina with five and Duke with three.

First Flight Middle School coach Jordan Lane reports the Syracuse guys led his team a clinic while they were here. Lane is a former Nighthawks player.

As for the First Flight varsity, Coach Van Lunen had a few powerful weapons suited up for Tuesday and junior Joe Wagner, who goes 6 foot 180, was one of them.

“He runs like a deer and he’s all muscle,” the coach noted. “He had a phenomenal game against Nansemond Suffolk Academy (March 15).

“We lost by one goal, 11-10, and Joe had three goals and dominated on ground balls,” Van Lunen added. “He hits it so fast.

“At Nansemond Suffolk, he busted through the crowd, they chased him, but he smoked ’em!” the coach said. “‘Dare you to catch me, dare you to stop me!'”

Another arrow in the quiver is Danny Gardill, a sophomore who scores “a lot,” Van Lunen said. “Jameson ‘J.J.’ Summerton is probably our number one assists guy.”

In the goal, Nolan Rollins is taking care of business and barking out orders to his long stick defenders in the Bulldog defensive set.

This backer defense features quick slide help and the team has used it effectively for years now. Last Tuesday night, Luke Rubino did an excellent job on face-offs, coach said, along with Dresden Jackson rotating in.

Winning faceoffs is key to victory because “a strong offense is the best defense,” Van Lunen said. The Kellam match opened with a quick goal from the visiting squad, but First Flight dominated from there on out.

“We scored the next six or seven,” he said. It was a cold and windy night but the ‘Hawks were on fire.

The team is led by solo captain Summerton.

“He’s done an awesome job communicating, promoting and pumping up the team members,” coach Van Lunen said.

First Flight easily defeated Lafayette 15 = 3 in a late game Thursday in Williamsburg, Va.

The Nighthawks will be home again Monday, April 8 for a match with conference foe Jacksonville. They have four wins and no losses in the conference. Their overall record is 6-2 with losses to Virginia prep schools.

Counting the junior varsity players, First Flight has 48 guys suiting up for games, which is amazing considering Van Lunen launched lacrosse on the Outer Banks from scratch in the early 2000s.