By Mike Dougherty
Chris Kear was anxious to see whether a recently converted freshmen midfielder was ready to play on varsity four years ago, so the Pleasantville coach put the prospect on the field during a preseason scrimmage against Brewster.
The audition did not go well for Josh Della Puca.
“I’m telling you, he had no left hand,” Kear said. “I can’t even describe the way he was cradling the ball. And by his senior year, he was pinning left-handed shots in the upper corner against Bronxville.”
And winning big games.
Della Puca came up with 34 goals and 41 assist this season, leading the Panthers to the first Section 1 Class C title in program history. He was the catalyst, the put-your-head-down-and-go-to-work leader of a team that was full of surprises.
The effort resulted in All-America recognition, and Journal News Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year honors for Westchester and Putnam.
“I was a pole before my freshman year and our junior varsity coach, Phil Sanders, had me switch,” Della Puca said. “I remember the scrimmage. I was running down the field on a clear and needed to go to my left hand, and had no idea how to do it.”
The switch to offense ignited a passion for lacrosse.
Della Puca became a fixture at summer camps and showcases and began to develop his game. He took 1-on-1 lessons from Ned Crotty, a former Duke standout, and spent hours and hours each week developing stick skills.
The payoff came at the end of sophomore year.
“I scored a goal against Bronxville, top left,” said Della Puca, who is headed to Ithaca College in the fall where he will continue to play. “I was like, ‘Wow, I can play with these kids.’ I felt pretty good.”
The growth continued each of the last two years.
Della Puca is not a vocal individual. He spoke for maybe 10 seconds at the end-of-season dinner. There’s never a lot of emotion on display, either, but Della Puca is a presence when the spotlight is shining bright.
“Josh always turned up for the big moment,” Kear said. “He got three goals and three assists against Bronxville in the Section 1 championship game. I never had to worry about Josh in the big games. He kept asking me, ‘When are we going to play Yorktown?’ I had to keep telling him, ‘I don’t think it’s going to happen.’ Josh was always looking for a big game.”
Against lesser opponents, he willingly took a back seat.
“I thrive in big games, for some reason,” Della Puca said. “In the games that were maybe less important, my job, I felt, was to spread the wealth and get my teammates more involved.”
After graduation, he was back to work, looking to shed a few pounds and shave a few seconds off his 40-yard dash time.
“I know the college game is a lot faster,” Della Puca said. “I want to be ready.”
The other members of the first team chosen with input from coaches in Westchester and Putnam are Henry Grass of Bronxville, Ryan Lee of John Jay, Matt O’Donnell of Iona Prep, Michael Dedvukaj of Yorktown, Reed Malas of Mamaroneck, Jose Boyer of Yorktown, Jack Drillock of Pleasantville, Charlie Tarry of Bronxville, Tom O’Connor of Iona Prep, Steven Forrest of Harrison and Ben Shapiro of Mamaroneck.
Kear is the coach of the year in Westchester and Putnam after leading the Panthers to a 19-2 record.
2015 Journal News Westchester and Putnam Boys Lacrosse All-Stars
A – Henry Grass, Bronxville, Sr.
A – Ryan Lee, John Jay, Sr.
A – Matt O’Donnell, Iona Prep, Sr.
MF – Josh Della Puca, Pleasantville, Sr.
MF – Michael Dedvukaj, Yorktown, Sr.
MF – Reed Malas, Mamaroneck, Sr.
LSM – Jose Boyer, Yorktown, Jr.
D – Jack Drillock, Pleasantville, Jr.
D – Charlie Tarry, Bronxville, Sr.
D – Tom O’Connor, Iona Prep, Sr.
G – Steven Forrest, Harrison, Sr.
FOGO – Ben Shapiro, Mamaroneck
Coach of the year – Chris Kear, Pleasantville
A – Riley van den Broek, Rye Country Day, Sr.
A – Thomas Tenney, Fox Lane, So.
A – Ara Atayan, Bronxville, So.
MF – Ryan Baker, Yorktown, Sr.
MF – Eric Greenberg, Mamaroneck, Jr.
MF – Cullen Morgan, Fox Lane, Jr.
LSM – Aidan Hynes, Mahopac, Jr.
D – Gibson Smith, Pelham, So.
D – Dan Tracy, Fox Lane, Sr.
D – Zach Kryza, Iona Prep, Jr.
G – Oscar Marchi, Pleasantville, Sr.
FOGO – Kevin Trapp, White Plains, Sr.
Drew Abate, Rye, Sr. D; Davis Allen, Pelham, So. A; Theo Bresolin, Rye, Jr. D; Kyle Bronzo, Putnam Valley, Sr. A; Patrick Coughlin, Fordham Prep, Sr. LSM; Michael Crawford, Bronxville, Sr. A; Chris Conley, Mamaroneck, So. A; Dan Del Bene, Yorktown, Sr. D; Nick Del Bene, Yorktown, Sr. MF; Dylan DeMuro, Stepinac, Sr. LSM; Liam Donnelly, Yorktown, Jr. G; Dan Foley, Mahopac, Jr. MF; Tim Forbes, Yorktown, Sr. D; Ted Forst, Bronxville, Sr. A; Andrew Gross, Somers, Sr. MF; Will Halloran, Rye Country Day, Sr. MF; Charlie Harris, Mamaroneck, Sr. MF; Jared Hershman, Hen Hud, Jr. MF/FO; Tucker Hine, Haldane, Sr. A; Brendan Johnson, White Plains, Jr. A; Hunter Keech, John Jay, Jr. MF; Payton Levine, Byram Hills, Sr. A; Zander Levitz, Greeley, Jr. MF; Max Littleton, Mahopac, Sr. D; Matt Lupinacci, John Jay, Jr. A; Nico Mancini, White Plains, Sr. A; Gerard Martirano, Kennedy, Sr. A; Charlie McAllister, Iona Prep, Jr. G; Matt McLaughlin, Harrison, So. A; Ryan Mello, Putnam Valley, Sr. G; Dan Millner, Briarcliff, Sr. A; Sam Mishkind, Greeley, Sr. A; Dillon Morley, Irvington, Jr. A; Jake Murphy, John Jay, Jr. D; Jon Oronzio, Byram Hills, Fr. LSM; Stefano Paone, Briarcliff, Sr. A/MF; D.J. Pearl, Mahopac, Sr. MF; Kevin Posner, Iona Prep, Sr. MF; Sam Provet, Hastings, Sr. A; Kevin Prunty, Lakeland/Panas, Jr. MF; Will Randell, Fordham Prep, Sr. MF; Dan Rivie, Ossining, Sr. A; Danny Skluth, John Jay, Sr. MF; Mike Smith, Hen Hud, Jr. MF; Ryan Tandy, Hen Hud, Sr. A; Luke Verrochi, Fox Lane, Sr. LSM; Sam Welch, Hackley, Sr. A.
Based on voting on the lohud boys lacrosse blog
A – Gerard Martirano, Kennedy
A – Matt O’Donnell, Iona Prep
A – Ara Atayan, Bronxville
MF – Mike Smith, Hen Hud
MF – Dan Foley, Mahopac
MF – Eric Greenberg, Mamaroneck
D – Zach Kryza, Iona Prep
D – Tom O’Connor, Iona Prep
D – Drew Abate, Rye
G – Charlie McAllister, Iona Prep
Player of the year – Kryza (4,041 votes)
Coach of the year – Rick Trizano, Iona Prep (372 votes)