ADAMS TWP — It has been over 17 months since the Mars boys lacrosse team played a game, but that didn't stop the program from taking a huge step forward recently.
Last month, Austin Cote and Jake Wooldridge verbally committed to continue their academic and athletic careers at Loyola University in Maryland and Detroit Mercy, respectively.
They became the first two boys lacrosse players from Mars to commit to Division I programs. Both will be on scholarship.
“This is great for our program. We're a tiny town in Western Pennsylvania, but it shows the younger players that if you're good enough and work hard, you can get noticed,” said Mars coach Bob Marcoux. “And if you get noticed, you can get offered.”
Cote, a junior midfielder, was first noticed by Loyola in 2019, shortly after he helped Mars win the WPIAL title and reach the state quarterfinals. He attracted interest from over a dozen Division I programs, but in the end, his choice came down to Loyola and High Point University in North Carolina.
“I chose Loyola because I loved the feel of the campus, they have a great business school and it's a prestigious (lacrosse) program,” said Cote. “The coaches are really professional and I know they will push me to be my best. This is a dream come true for me and my family and I'm really excited.”
Loyola competes in the Patriot League, where it is a perennial power. The Greyhounds won a national championship in 2012 and were ranked sixth in the country entering the NCAA tournament in 2019.
Because of the coronavirus, Cote has just one high school season under his belt, but created quite an impression as a freshman. He tallied 32 goals and 25 assists that season, adding 154 groundballs and won 63 percent of faceoffs.
“Austin is very versatile and has eye-popping athletic ability,” said Marcoux. “He's very strong, quick and is able to make abrupt dodges against opposing players ... and he creates opportunities for his teammates.”
Cote recently made the Mid-American North team for the Nike National All-Star Tournament, which was played in Maryland.
“It was very competitive,” said Cote. “There were players from all over the country and a lot of them have committed early to top colleges.
“It was in middle school that things really started to click for me in lacrosse. It's a sport that fits my athletic ability perfectly. I set a goal of playing in Division I and just kept working toward it.”
Wooldridge, a senior long-stick midfielder, was second on the team in checks and caused turnovers among defenders in 2019.
“Jake is an outstanding athlete, fast and has good stick skills,” Marcoux said. “He took part in recruiting camps and tourneys over the summer and just killed it, attracted a lot of attention.”
Like Cote, Wooldridge narrowed his choices down to two — Detroit Mercy and the University of Hartford. The former is a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
“Between athletics and academics, I feel Detroit Mercy is the best fit for me,” said Wooldridge. “It's not a big school, but they compete against big programs.
“As a kid, college lacrosse always interested me. To be able to compete for conference titles and play against top colleges, it's been a dream of mine for a while.”
Marcoux sees the recent commits by two of his players as an accomplishment for Mars lacrosse as a whole.
Another player, junior defender Quinn Fuller, is also being courted by several Division I schools.
“These players have benefitted from the hard work that others have put in,” Marcoux said. “It validates the work that was done in the past to develop the program here.”