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From Mattituck to North Carolina: Trio sign to play lacrosse in college

As they begin their collegiate lacrosse careers next year, three seniors from Mattituck High School won’t have to look very far to keep tabs on each other.

At a signing ceremony last Wednesday, Ella Suglia, Brynn Gardner and Gavin Richards all officially signed National Letters of Intent to play lacrosse in college next year. And all three selected schools in North Carolina.

“I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or what,” Richards said. “North Carolina.”

Wingate and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte are separated by about 35 miles, while High Point is just over an hour’s drive north of the latter.

The lacrosse programs at Mattituck have grown into regional powers in recent years, and players moving on to college programs has become a yearly tradition. This year’s group features Suglia going to UNC/Charlotte, Gardner to High Point University and Richards to Wingate University.

For all three, last week’s signing ceremony was the culmination of a long process that began as soon as college coaches could begin recruiting at the start of their junior years. 

Gardner recalled driving back from a tournament on Aug. 31, 2021, the night before coaches could begin reaching out to prospective student-athletes.

“At midnight, you’re allowed to get calls and emails and texts from college coaches and I remember driving back from this tournament and I started getting my first calls and texts,” Gardner said. “It was so overwhelming, but it was really exciting. It was definitely a stressful process but I’m happy with my decision and where I ended up.”

Mattituck senior Gavin Richards joined by coach John Amato at last week’s signing ceremony. (Credit: Melissa Azofeifa)

Suglia opted to take a slightly different path in her choice. At UNC/Charlotte, she’ll be joining an inaugural program that won’t officially begin games until the 2024-25 season, when she will be a sophomore. Women’s lacrosse continues to grow across the nation and UNC/Charlotte is one of the latest programs to join the Division I ranks.

Suglia said she’ll have a redshirt season as a freshman, meaning she still maintains four years of eligibility. Her freshman year will feature all the training routines that come with joining a college program, just no games in the spring.

Suglia said the redshirt year gives her an opportunity to adjust to  college life and she’s thrilled to be part of a new program. 

“We’re going to be the first girls ever to play on a UNC/Charlotte Division I lacrosse team, which is to me, crazy,” she said. “I’m so happy to be a part of that.”

Suglia is a versatile player who had been on the midfield at Mattituck before switching to low attack last year during her junior campaign. She scored 23 goals and added 39 assists last season. At college, she believes she’ll likely stay on attack.

“I am a lefty, so that kind of gives me a little bit of help,” she said.

Suglia had originally committed to a different North Carolina college last year, but opted to rethink her decision after some changes at that school’s program and the departure of its entire coaching staff.

As it turned out, Clare Short, the coach from Queens University of Charlotte, where Suglia originally intended to sign, was hired as the first coach for UNC/Charlotte.

Gardner scored 31 goals and added 21 assists last season for the Mattituck/Southold/Greenport team that ultimately fell to Port Jefferson in the Class D playoffs.

Gardner said she was looking at a wide variety of schools, from closer to home to even farther south.

“I just really loved High Point the moment I stepped on campus,” she said. “And I loved the team they created and the coaches and I’m so excited to go.”

Richards plays as a defenseman and said he’s been playing lacrosse “pretty much my whole life.”

“This last year or two has been busy,” he said. “It’s nice to be committed now.”

He’ll join a program that posted a 13-5 record last year and competed in the NCAA Division II Tournament.

He said he liked the campus and the team’s head coach, Tim Boyle.

All three said they’re looking forward to their final lacrosse seasons at Mattituck before heading off to college. And they all plan to keep busy this winter as multi-sport athletes. Suglia will run on the winter track team. Gardner and Richards both play basketball.