The Shawnee boys lacrosse team entered the 2020-’21 season a talented group, though not a particularly experienced one.
Despite that, the Renegades made it to the South Jersey Group 3 sectional final against Ocean City, which Shawnee lost 9-6 on their way to a final 11-7 record. Now entering the 2021-’22 season, head coach Don Green said the promise and talent the team showed last year – when the majority of players were getting their first glimpses of varsity high-school lacrosse – will look to be realized this season.
“We returned so many players this season from last year that gained so much valuable experience the prior year,” he said. “We had an extremely young team last season. If we got the chance to play during the COVID year, we would’ve had an older team with so much experience and there were a lot of expectations for that team, but then they graduated without playing.
“We literally only had two players on the roster last year with varsity experience, so we basically had to start all over again,” Green added. “It was like I was a first-year coach again.”
The Renegades started the new season hot, with five wins out of the gate that saw them outscore their opponents 74 to 13. The team’s top player on offense last year, Ethan Krauss, was just a sophomore when he scored a team-leading 39 goals and led the team with 48 assists. While his first season of varsity lacrosse was unconventional given the pandemic, Krauss enjoyed great individual success and contributed to the team’s overall accomplishments.
“It was a little bit of a tough season with not having a locker room and all the other things that you couldn’t really do because of COVID,” he said. “I felt really physically ready for last year after getting my whole freshman year to just focus on training and getting ready to play that following season.
“It was frustrating to not play at all that freshman year,” Krauss added, “but at the same time, I feel like it made me more hungry to want to get my name out there and play well for the team.”
Nate Sears, a senior this year, was second on the team in both goals and assists last season, netting 34 and 10, respectively, for the Renegades. He and his teammates have their eye on flipping the script this season, after losing the sectional final last year. Sears said that goal is something he’s thought about literally every day since the game’s final seconds.
“The lock screen on my phone is a photo from just after the game ended with Ocean City celebrating, and Ethan and I are in the background hugging,” Sears said. “It’s something that we still talk about, because we don’t want that to happen again.
“I’ve looked at that picture every day,” he added, “because I remember that feeling and I know I don’t want to have that feeling again.”
Sears and Krauss played together on various teams before reaching Shawnee, but due to position switches and other circumstances, they never developed a strong connection on the field until last season, something they both look forward to continuing this year.
“I feel like last year was a big steppingstone for this year,” Sears said. “We feed off each other really well, knowing when to dodge and when to cut to open up chances for him, and the same goes for him doing it for me.
“We have that kind of chemistry to feel locked in with what the other one is thinking throughout a game.”
Through Shawnee’s first six games of the season, the Renegades have posted a 5-1 record, with their lone loss coming from an overtime thriller against rival Cherokee. Krauss’ play has him in the state’s top 10 for goals (20), assists (19) and points, a big factor in the Renegades’ success so far.
Although the recent loss brings a new challenge, the team’s leading scorer said losing gives the squad a chance to learn from its mistakes and better prepare for yet another postseason run later this spring.
“We can definitely learn from that game, and it’ll make us hungrier to play better next time we’re on the field,” Krauss said. “The only goal is to win a sectional championship. It’s what we fell short of last year, and we really want to make that happen this season.”