November 15, 2006

East Hampton Lacrosse Star Will Play For The Irish

On Monday morning, East Hampton's Zach Brenneman signed the most important document of his young life — an official letter of intent to play lacrosse for the heralded and historic University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

"It was pretty overwhelming," said Brenneman, a senior midfielder on the Bonackers' varsity lacrosse team that enjoyed its finest season in '06, going 14-4. "When you see how much it costs and that I'm basically paying very little to go there . . . it's just such an honor. I would have never had the chance of going there without lacrosse."

Brenneman has been a stabilizing force for the East Hampton varsity lacrosse program, virtually from its inception, making an immediate impact on head coach Ralph Naglieri's program when he was called up from the Bonackers junior varsity as an eighth-grader.

"Zach's been with us since the eighth grade and over the last three years, we've been having a lot of success . . . he was a kid that we recognized very early because he was a tall, strong lefthander who shot the ball very hard," said Naglieri. "He can also play long pole . . . and he's extremely tough. We brought him up right away and he took a beating early on, but he always came back and improved steadily. He's just a natural athlete."

Brenneman, who also stars as wide receiver for East Hampton's football team and logs significant minutes for the Bonackers varsity basketball team, is a coach's dream. A six-foot, athletic artist who can beat you with his strength or his speed depending upon what the situation calls for. "Schools really don't want you to concentrate on just one sport. They're looking for a well-rounded athlete," said Brenneman, who strives to fit that role.

Last season, Brenneman was East Hampton's anchor at midfield, scoring 30 goals and adding a career-high 22 assists. The previous year he notched a career-high 36 goals to go along with 12 assists. For his career, Brenneman has 96 goals and 50 assists. East Hampton has gone 37-17 during that time.

"Zach's done a great job for us and as he improved, so did our program," Naglieri said. "He got a lot of recognition from schools the end of his sophomore year. Virginia, Johns Hopkins and Notre Dame all were seriously recruiting him and those are some of the top lacrosse schools in the country. Zach just keeps understanding the game better."

The coach added, "We graduated a lot of experience last year and we have a lot of good kids coming up with little varsity experience. Zach's going to be a guy that will have a lot of pressure on him [from other teams] this season. He'll be a leader this year."

Brenneman has been honored with several major All-County and All-Division placements over his career but perhaps his biggest accomplishment occurred at the end of last season when he won a gold medal as one of the members of the Empire State Games lacrosse team. He then went on to play on Team Long Island, a very competitive travel team that accepts only the top players on Long Island.

"When you make that team coming from East Hampton, you're not making it because of the program's history," said Naglieri. "Zach really worked hard and earned it. "We've very proud of him and I'm happy for him and his family. There's this false belief that lacrosse has this limitless amount of college scholarships. In reality, [a full lacrosse scholarship is] very hard to come by."

For Brenneman, the whole idea that he'll be on the Notre Dame campus as a freshman next fall is both humbling and astonishing.

"It's awesome. I went to the Notre Dame-USC game last year and it was amazing. I have so many opportunities to excel in school and on the lacrosse field. For the past three summers, I couldn't work. I had to either leave early in the morning or later in the evening to play for my travel team. This has been three years working to get both my lacrosse skills and my grades up to get noticed."

His parents are "overwhelmed and I'm in awe," he said. "It won't click in until I'm done with high school, it's a summer day and I'm sitting there thinking I'm going on . . . going on to Notre Dame."

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