By Alex Lippa
After two consecutive losing seasons, the Haverhill High lacrosse team has gotten off to its best start since 2009.
The Hillies were 7-2 as of last Thursday, surpassing their win totals for 2011 (5) and 2010 (4).
A big reason for the success in the early going is the play of Nathaniel Vazquez. The senior attacker had 25 goals as the team reached the halfway point of the season. Vazquez is on his way to eclipsing the 38 goals he put up last season when he was named the Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 MVP.
The main motive for the Hillies this year will be looking for wins in the post season. The Hillies qualified last year and lost a closer-than-expected tussle to Acton-Boxboro. The Hillies haven't won a MIAA tournament game since 2005.
The Gazette sat down with Vazquez to talk about life on and off the field.
What is different this year compared to last year?
I feel like our captains, Erik (Mangrum,) Josh (White) and myself have done a great job in the off season getting these guys together. We ran them during the week and I feel we bring a positive attitude every practice.
What has new coach Andrew Kirkalby added to the team this season?
A lot of new systems. He's really simplified them for us. We don't have great athleticism and we don't have that good of stick skills, so he's done a good job of dumbing everything down a bit.
What do you want to accomplish as a team this year?
First and foremost, we are definitely trying to be Merrimack Valley Conference champions. We haven't done that since my freshman year and that is definitely a huge goal of ours. We're trying to go to states and get past the preliminaries since we have never done that before.
What do you want to accomplish individually?
I'm trying to help out my team as much as I can. I'm trying to be there for everyone and get the ball to everyone and just do what I can for myself.
How did you get started in lacrosse?
I started (playing) the first year I was in Haverhill in third grade. I saw a listing in the newspaper and have done it ever since.
What do you enjoy the most about lacrosse?
I enjoy being with my teammates and watching them score goals. When I (pass to) them I enjoy watching them celebrate.
Where else do you play lacrosse?
In the winter, I play with the Haverhill team in an indoor league at Homegrown Lacrosse in North Andover. In the summer, I play with the club team Laxachusetts out of Lincoln-Sudbury, which is a very good program.
Do you have any other family who has played lacrosse?
My middle brother Nick Vazquez played for Haverhill High and is now a junior midfielder at Merrimack (College).
What are your plans for next year?
I'm going to Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., to play lacrosse. It's a Division 2 program which is ranked fourth in the nation. They have a great liberal arts program and the lacrosse team is absolutely phenomenal.
Let's do some favorites. What's your favorite band/artist?
Eli Young Band
Paul Rabil, midfielder for the Boston Cannons
Rice and beans, classic Spanish food
The Loft in North Andover
Subject in school?
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The Gazette regularly profiles local athletes in this On the Record feature.