Steve Pontrello of St. Augustine Prep has played alongside talented lacrosse players for years.
He shared the field with former Press Players of the Year Gabe and Max Voumard in 2009 and 2010.
His older brother, Nikko Pontrello, played two seasons at St. Augustine Prep, graduating last year, and recently helped Loyola University win the NCAA Division I championship.
But after Steve Pontrello completed his senior year this spring as the Hermits' all-time goals and points leader, he might be remembered as the best of the bunch.
Steve Pontrello is The Press Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year for the second straight year.
"He's the best player in the state," St. Augustine Prep coach J.C. Valore said Wednesday. "I would absolutely stand by that statement. I've seen a lot of very talented players, and there are guys out there that can do things just as well as Steve, but there isn't anybody that can do as many things as well as Steve does."
In 2011, Pontrello scored 52 goals to go with 23 assists for 75 points. This year he scored 50 goals but increased his assists total to 37, giving him 87 points overall and pushing him past Gabe Voumard for first place on the Prep's all-time scoring list with 195 goals and 296 points.
But Pontrello said the points didn't matter much to him.
"I didn't really keep track of all that," said Pontrello, 19, of the Marlton section of Evesham Township, Burlington County. "I just wanted to win my first state title in my final year. We didn't accomplish that."
St. Augustine lost in the Non-Public A state final for two straight years, 7-6 to St. Joseph-Metuchen in 2010 and 10-4 to Delbarton in 2011.
This season, the Hermits switched to an independent schedule to help better prepare for the state tournament, but the third-seeded Hermits lost 14-9 to No. 2 Delbarton, the eventual champion, in the semifinals.
Pontrello said the Hermits were disappointed to fall short in the state tournament but that the switch in schedules will help the program long term.
"The year was great until the end," Pontrello said. "With the independent schedule and facing new competition, Coach put us in a position to see better teams. That's what you want if you're serious about lacrosse and want to get better."
Valore said Pontrello was not only the team's best player but also its most versatile. He had different roles from game to game and Pontrello was always up to the task.
"He has rolled with the changes every year that he's been at St. Augustine," Valore said. "I think (this year) he evolved into a more well-rounded captain. His game picked up and he became a better player, but his real asset was his ability to grow as a leader and a person of character that the boys can rely on."
On the field, Valore said, Pontrello doesn't have many weaknesses.
"He has the perfect blend of strength, speed and skill," Valore said. "Those are the big things you're looking for in a player. Everything he does with his left hand he can do with his right. Many (players) would give a lot just to be able to do with one hand what Steve can do with both."
Upon graduation, Pontrello, who will play at the University of North Carolina in 2013, was selected to USLacrosse's National U19 team.
He is one of only four high school players on the 23-man roster that will travel to Finland this summer to compete for a gold medal. Some of his teammates will include players from college lacrosse powers such as Duke and Johns Hopkins.
"It's a great honor," Pontrello said of representing his country. "There's only four high school players; everyone else is in college. We don't know what it's like to play in college yet, so they're helping us out in a way. It's a good mix."
As a player who is always looking to improve his game, Pontrello also has talked to Nikko about what to expect in college.
"He just said, 'Learn as much as you can as a freshman. Learn from the older guys and take it all in,' " Steve Pontrello said. "His team was fortunate enough to win a national championship. What a great team they are. I'm happy for him."
North Carolina was 11-6 in 2012 and ranked No. 13 on the NCAA's website. Pontrello said he's joining a great program and will work hard for playing time in his freshman year.
Valore said Pontrello hasn't shown any reason to doubt that he will be successful at the next level.
"I don't think moving to the collegiate game is ever seamless," Valore said. "But if anyone can handle it as a freshman, it's going to be Steve."
Coach of the Year
It was a year of firsts for the Egg Harbor Township High School boys lacrosse team.
Brett Hoffecker was in his first year as head coach after spending two seasons as an assistant, and he led the Eagles to their first Cape-Atlantic League title with a 13-1 conference record. They clinched it with a 3-2 win over Mainland Regional in the final game of the season.
Hoffecker is the The Press Coach of the Year in boys lacrosse.
"It was plain and simple with these guys," Hoffecker said Sunday. "There was no 'I' in team. They all worked together. They knew they had a job. And if they were down, they picked each other up."
Hoffecker said the main values that he tried to instill in his team this season were respect and discipline. The team took very few penalties and showed strong team unity on the way to the CAL title.
"They had a great mentality the whole year," Hoffecker said. "They showed dedication, hard work and respect."
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