Hudson Valley Sports Report

FROM THE BOTTOM TO THE TOP

Rich Thomaselli Commentary: Wappingers Couldn’t Have Been Much Lower Three Years Ago.

Think of where we were three years ago, almost to the day, and think of where we are now.

The juxtaposition could not be any more startling.

Wappingers boys lacrosse – the combined team of players from Roy C. Ketcham and John Jay high schools – was a program in complete disarray and utter chaos.

Its coach at the time abruptly quit three games before the Section 1 playoffs began. Just up and quit. The athletic director at the time, Kurt Jesman, confirmed the resignation and said on that May day in 2014 that “There was a mixture of several factors with the coach, the system, parents, and he decided to resign.”

Wappingers was seeded 11th that year and ended up having a very short cup of coffee in the tournament.

That was about as bottom of the barrel as it gets – a record bad enough to be seeded that low, a coach frustrated enough to quit even with the end of the season in sight, and a handful of meddlesome parents.

It was a toxic combination, to say the least.

That was three years ago.

On Thursday, the Wappingers boys lacrosse program will play for the Section 1, Class A championship against Lakeland/Panas.

Quite the turnaround, no?

And we all know the reason for it.

It was because the Wappingers Central School District, which has seriously botched some of its coaching hires, went out and hit a home run with this one. The athletic department zeroed in on the best damn high school boys lacrosse coach in the Hudson Valley and they hired him away from Putnam Valley and they asked him to build them a competitive team.

Brian Kuczma said no.

Instead, he said, “I will build you a program.”

With the explosion of youth lacrosse in the area, and the fact that two of the biggest high schools in the area were able to combine resources to form the program several years ago, it was a match made in heaven. Kuczma took the Warriors to the sectional quarterfinal found in 2015, his first season, and again in 2016.

Rich Thomaselli Commentary

This year, Wappingers finally turned that corner. The program is in its first-ever sectional championship game. Kuczma is such a driving force that the man who replaced him at Putnam Valley, Tad Ignatz, stepped down last year and joined Kuczma’s staff at Wappingers.

But that was on the field.

Off the field is where Kuczma made his impact. Although he is generally considered a player’s coach, Kuczma ended all the nonsense over playing time among players and over some parents living vicariously through their children.

Reaching this level of team play can only be done by setting the foundation for the program. Kuczma did that. Now, no matter what happens on Thursday, one thing is clear.

Wappingers is here to stay.

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