NORTH ANDOVER — As the sun set, giving way to another cool spring night, Tucker Ciessau was forced to digest something he had been putting off for as long as possible: His stellar high school lacrosse career was over.
He laid on his back for several minutes after the Scituate High boys’ team had absorbed a 17-6 loss to host North Andover last week in the preliminary round of the Division 2 East sectional, gazing at the various shades of orange in the sky above.
Ciessau had taken his spikes off, but he was still wearing his helmet.
“It’s hard to finally realize that I’m not playing for Scituate anymore,” Ciessau said. “I didn’t really want to take the helmet off because it’s been such a big part of my life.
“A lot of memories. The last four years I’ve dedicated my whole life to lacrosse,’’ he said.
“It was tough to see this end with all these guys who I’ve known for so long.”
The season’s end paves the way for the next chapter — both for Ciessau, and for the team he is leaving behind.
For Ciessau, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound attack who led the Sailors (11-10) in scoring (67 goals, 48 assists), the next step is a lacrosse scholarship at Division 1 Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky., where he will rejoin former Scituate defenseman Shane Healey .
For the Sailors, it’s filling the void of their all-time leading scorer (400 career points).
“The game moves fast for some kids,” coach Mark Puzzangara said. “For Tucker, it moves slow.
“It’s his approach to the game, it’s his knowledge of the game, how he takes pride in every aspect. Shooting after practice, going home and shooting, putting the time in in the offseason. His goal-scoring ability and his lacrosse IQ, some of that I hope these young kids are able to just watch.”
A big part of filling the hole — and someone who has had a front-row seat to watching that work ethic — may be Ciessau’s young brother, Trevor , a junior who was the team’s second-leading scorer (39 goals, 26 assists).
Puzzangara, while wary of burdening Trevor with unreasonable expectations based on his brother’s performance, is confident the 5-foot-10, 165-pound attack is more than capable of stepping up. Trevor likely won’t put up a 110-goal campaign like Tucker did in his All-America season last spring, but he will be more than able to hold his own, his coach said.
“Trevor is his own player, he brings his own skill set to the table, and he brings a tremendous work ethic,” Puzzangara said. “We’re happy to have him back for one more year. . . . Trevor knows he’ll be one of the go-to guys.’’
Added Tucker: “He’s definitely ready for it. He’s known for a while that this is his team next year.”
Even though Tucker won’t be around, the younger Ciessau will still be leaning on him for guidance, in a way.
“He taught me actually a lot about lacrosse,” Trevor said. “I want to take everything that he taught me and put it toward next year and see how well I can do.”
In a way, Trevor has already faced the test of playing without his older sibling. Opposing teams would do their best to keep Tucker from getting open for passes, and then double- or triple-team him when he did get the ball, hoping to make him a nonfactor near the cage.
Archbishop Williams even had two players sealing off Tucker from passes during their match last month, an 11-3 win for Scituate.
At first, the Sailors struggled with those defensive schemes.
“We kinda sat them down and said, ‘You gotta look at it this way: If you’re getting shut off, it’s an honor. It’s an honor saying that you’re the best at what you do,’ ” Puzzangara said. Tucker “became a more well-rounded player instead of just going to the cage.”
North Andover was no exception. Tucker ended the game with a goal and two assists — his third-lowest point total of the season — after rarely getting a clean look on net in a game that was something of a watershed moment for the program.
The loss to the Scarlet Knights marked the last time that the elder Ciessau would play under Puzzangara, who also coached him on the Laxachusetts club team and was his physical education teacher at Hatherly Elementary School way back when.
After the May 28 loss, Puzzangara spoke to his team with an eye toward next year. The Sailors are graduating just four seniors, and returning most of their offensive core, along with captain Jake Reynolds , a three-year starter in goal. Puzzangara is also expecting a strong eighth-grade class to move up.
But will he have the next Tucker Ciessau?
“There are not too many Tucker Ciessaus,” Puzzangara said with a wry smile. “He’s a special player. Hopefully, if we can develop someone who is a close second, we’ll be doing OK.”
Giarrusso tops brother’s mark
When Thayer Academy junior Harry Giarrusso got off to a slow start this season, his father, Roy , told coach Stew Curran not to worry. The attack from Hingham had a very clear number in mind.
“He’s going for it,” the father told the coach.
“It” was the program’s single-season record for goals, and the number was 45, set by older brother Tim Giarrusso as a senior last spring.
Two months later, the younger Giarrusso is the new record-holder with 51 tallies, more than anyone else in the Independent School League.
“Harry’s been a big surprise this season. He’s one of those guys that’s pretty special,” Curran said. “He’s got what shooters need to have: He wants the ball, has great hands and a very quick release.”
The 5-foot-11, 165-pound Giarrusso benefited from having senior attack Brooks Thomson (33 goals, 33 assists) of Scituate by his side, according to Curran. He also had a way of just ending up in front of the net.
“For a wiry little bugger, he finds those seams and lets it rip,’’ Curran said. “He has a snaky elusiveness that allows him to get by well.”
When Harry Giarrusso was a freshman, the coach said, “I was afraid he was going to get broken in half. I used to call him ‘Cue Tip’ because he was so skinny.”
Giarrusso added 10 assists to finish with 61 points, good for fourth in the league.
The Tigers finished 11-6, and return seven of their 10 starters next season.
Meanwhile, brother Tim scored five goals in his freshman season for Middlebury College’s 13-3 squad.Tim Healey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @timbhealey.