Saturday, April 18, 2015

Shrewsbury's Skermont Named MIAA Lax Coach of the Year

Shrewsbury coach Nate Skermont (far left) celebrates the 2014 Division 2 Central/West championship with his team.     Photo credit: Shrewsbury Lacrosse.
 By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Following a season in which his team captured the first district title in school history, Shrewsbury lacrosse coach Nate Skermont was named the 2014-2015 Lacrosse Coach of the Year by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA).

Last year was a dream season for Shrewsbury in many ways. The Colonials avenged a 9-0 defeat at the hands of rival St. John's, knocking the Pioneers out of the playoffs in the Division 2 Central/West semifinals, then captured their first ever district title days later in a double-overtime thriller against Westfield.

The Colonials had many heroes last season, as goalie Chris Gorman earned All-American honors, attackmen Joe Buduo and Derek Tinsley wrote themselves into the program's history books with playoff game-winners, pole Griffin Couture established himself as one of the state's best players, and the squad rallied around then-junior Tim Hally's mother, who had suffered a brain stem stroke the year prior.

Skermont remembers last year's team as the best in program history, and a special group with character in spades.

"I think in regards to last year's team, they were the most mentally tough team I've coached," Skermont said. "They didn't let any outside noise distract them. It could have been easy, when we lost 9-0 to St. John's, to hear the doubters, but we watched the film and fixed our mistakes. 

"They always wanted to practice and work hard, so it wasn't tough to motivate them at all. That group of players is going to move forward in life and do unbelievable things, because they are going to take that work ethic into the real world and win there too."

While last season was the program's first district title, Shrewsbury has been a perennial winner since Skermont took over the program in 2007. A native of lacrosse-crazy upstate New York, Skermont is one of just five coaches in Central Mass history to win 100 games, boasting an impressive record of 115-65, and appearing in two other district championship games.

Skermont is proud to receive recognition from the MIAA, an honor he calls a "team award" that represents the success of the program at large, but he is perhaps even prouder of the tight-knit, family like atmosphere the Shrewsbury lacrosse program has fostered.

"What I really like is the fact that my guys are always welcome back to the program, and all of my assistant coaches over the past four years are former players," Skermont said. "I also love that any alumni will always come and stand on the sidelines with us and help out during games.

"Teams always talk about being a family, but we truly are one. Former players will text after every game asking how the team did, and that means the world to me and the guys."

Gorman, now a freshman playing lacrosse at Eastern Connecticut State, remembers his old coach as someone he could count on both on and off the field. He also plans to be on the sidelines helping the Colonials once his college season ends.

"Skermont is a class act, (a) humble and quiet coach, other than yelling on the sidelines, but he knows his players better than anyone," Gorman said. "He was always there to help his players, especially me.

"Skermont wasn't just a coach to me, he is my role model and I hope some day I can be as good a guy as he is... Skermont might come off as a tough guy, but he's one of the nicest people I've ever met and he has taught me so much outside of lacrosse.""

As for this year, the Colonials are off to another solid start. With a record of 5-2 and a 1-1 mark in Mid-Wach A, Shrewsbury is once again in the thick of a league title race, this time as defending champion, and will again vie for a high seed in the Division 2 Central/West tournament.

The Colonials are characteristically strong on defense- a trademark of Skermont's teams- surrendering a region-low 4.9 goals against, all while replacing an All-American goalie in Gorman and a number of SuiteSports All-Stars from a season ago.

Leading the Colonials on the back end is pole Tim Hally. Now a senior, Hally is hoping to help lead Shrewsbury to another set of titles before taking his game to the next level at Assumption College. The talented defender knows his team has the coach to do it all again. 

"Coach Skermont is single-handedly the best coach I have ever played for," Hally said. "If there was one word to describe him it's loyal. He loves his players like his children and he doesn't pick favorites. One day he could be riding us hard, the next day he could be joking and laughing. All he wants is the best out of every single player and he does everything in his power to accomplish that."

In the league the Colonials have an overtime loss to rival Algonquin and a slugfest win over Westboro to their credit. Expect more grind-it-out games for Shrewsbury, and the rest of a loaded Mid-Wach A, as Skermont and his boys aim for an encore as league and district champions.

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