They first met as third graders on the lacrosse field. They were strangers then, unsure in their ability and not sold on the sport.
A decade later, John Diaz, Ryan Feit, Alex Hatzopoulos, Andrew Keith and Harrison Schoenhaut are the heart of the Syosset boys lacrosse team, defending Nassau Class A champions, and more akin to brothers than mere teammates.
So it was fitting the five seniors joined with family in the high school guidance office Tuesday to mark a rite of passage. Each announced their college choice during the week-long NCAA early signing period.
“I couldn’t be prouder of any group to ever come through here,” Syosset Coach John Calabria said.
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Diaz will play midfield at Division II NYIT. Feit, a goalie who committed as a sophomore to lacrosse power Johns Hopkins, made it official by signing his Letter of Intent last week. Hatzopoulos, a midfield, is headed to Rutgers. Keith is Ivy League bound after choosing Cornell. Schoenhaut, a defense and long-stick midfield, will play at Division III Ithaca College.
“It’s amazing,” said Feit, the No. 36 player nationally on Inside Lacrosse’s Top 50 list. “I’ve been playing with all these kids since we were in third grade. It’s not just my accomplishment. It’s everyone’s accomplishment. It’s a great feeling to make it official with all my closest friends.”
All five made their decision based on academics as much as lacrosse, Syosset Athletic Director Rich Schaub said.
“It speaks volumes of the type of kids we have,” Schaub said.
It also speaks to a unique bond that took root under then-PAL Coach Anthony Core.
“I played lacrosse just doing one of my friends a favor,” Hatzopoulos said. “We all started to love it. We became one of the best teams on Long Island as third graders.”
Other members of that PAL team went on to starring roles elsewhere. Chaminade standouts Ryan Lukacovic (Virginia) and Tim Burke (Dartmouth) and St. Anthony’s senior A.J. Core (Furman) were once teammates with the Syosset five.
“When I first started, lacrosse was something I did for fun. I was a baseball player back then,’’ Schoenhaut said. “Us five kinda stuck together.”
Tuesday was about a future beyond Syosset.
Diaz, a faceoff specialist, wanted to stay home. He’ll get a chance to play right away at NYIT.
Keith chose Cornell over Notre Dame, Brown, Dartmouth and Yale. Older brother Thomas Keith is a senior long-stick midfielder at Cornell.
“Just the idea of being wanted by other coaches, deciding which college to go to because they all wanted you,” excited Keith, who began receiving recruiting letters as a sophomore. “It’s nice being wanted.”