Considering all the highlights he’s already enjoyed at the high school level, it’s almost hard to believe that Mike Daniello has two more varsity seasons to go.
In fact, considering all that’s happened, Daniello’s sophomore season seems like an eternity ago.
Since it ended, he became one of the most heavily recruited players in the nation, rising to No. 9 in Inside Lacrosse’s rankings of juniors in the U.S.
In the fall, he changed his college choice to Johns Hopkins after initially committing to North Carolina.
Then, just months later, John Jay relieved Nick Savastano of his duties before naming Tim Schurr as its new coach earlier this year.
It’s been an eventful offseason for John Jay lacrosse. Can you describe your emotions about losing Nick Savastano as head coach and your thoughts on your new coach, Tim Schurr?
It certainly has been a little different start to a new season than we all expected. After finding out that Nick Savastano was not going to be coaching our team this year, numerous emotions ran though my head. I had grown up watching my two older brothers (Nick and Chris) play under Coach Sav, and for him to not be around the program he took so much pride in building was very disheartening. Both Nick and Vin Savastano were much more to me than just high school lacrosse coaches, and I can’t thank them enough for the time they spent working with me.
As a team, I believe we have handled the situation as best as we can, staying together and preparing for our upcoming season. Coach Schurr has been nothing but a great addition to the John Jay lacrosse family. Despite everything that happened we were very fortunate to get a coach with the lacrosse background and knowledge that Coach Schurr possesses.
Having an opportunity to be coached by him over the last few weeks at box, you can tell he is a man of great character and leadership. As a team we are looking forward to working with Coach this spring and continuing to play at the high level that John Jay lacrosse has become known for.
You play Somers twice during the regular season and could very well play them three times if you meet again in the playoffs. What are your thoughts about that and how do you think you guys match up with them this year compared to last year?
It will definitely be an adjustment playing Somers twice during the season. Somers is a very talented team and in the event we end up seeing them three times this season it will definitely be a battle as both teams’ rosters are filled with great players and athletes. Last year we were a very young team and I believe with a year of experience under our belt and with our team’s potential, it will make it an even more exciting game.
Can you talk about some of the key players you lost from last year and how you think you will be able to replace them?
Last year we were very fortunate to have great senior leaders in Will Stewart, Geoff Stearns and Ian DeRuiter. Each of them played a great role in helping to develop our young team into a very competitive team last season. One player I will miss this season is Drew Beck. Playing alongside him last year made my life easier. He was always able to find a way to get open on the crease. Jameson Pickel and myself have some big shoes to fill on the leadership role, but its not only going to come from us, but for other key players like Jake Weil and Forrest Walter who put up big numbers last year and who we are going to have to depend on greatly this year.
What regular-season games are you looking forward to most?
One thing our program always takes pride in is our great strength of schedule. Our schedule is filled with a bunch of national powerhouses like Manhasset, Syosset, St. Anthony’s and Corning East. One of the games that I am most looking forward to is the Syosset game. I believe we play them on MSG this year and after our game last year I think it’s going to be another exciting game to watch and be a part of.
Another game that I’m always excited for is the Yorktown game. Though it’s early on in the season, it is always a hard-fought game and I think it will be a good battle test for both teams.
What players on your team do you think will surprise some people this season?
This year, I think people are going to be surprised by the hidden depth we have returning from last year. Our seniors, along with a bunch of our returning starters, have been doing a great job jumping into leadership roles. One person who I think will flourish this year on the defensive end is Alex Lanza. He’s a big kid whose work ethic is phenomenal. Also the Morris brothers, Jimmy and Brendan, are two great athletes who will fill greater roles this season and will definitely gain a lot of attention.
I also believe that Brandon Merlino, along with Will O’Donnell at midfield and Billy Pray at attack, will be key contributors to the season. Most importantly this year is going to be about everyone on the team contributing as no one individual is greater than the team.
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