BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — One of the area’s top rising seniors in boys’ lacrosse is leaving the area.
Matt Stucchi, a Loyola commit who has played the past three springs for Shenendehowa’s varsity, is headed to play his senior year of lacrosse at The Hill Academy, a school in Ontario, Canada.
“I want to be as college-ready as possible,” Stucchi said Monday. “This is the best opportunity, I think, that I have in order to be able to then fight for playing time as a [college] freshman.”
Stucchi said he decided earlier this summer to make the switch for the upcoming school year, but had started looking at The Hill Academy during the spring season in which he helped lead Shenendehowa to an appearance in the Section II Class A title game against Shaker.
“But I wanted to focus on the team and then make the decision about myself after,” said Stucchi, who scored seven goals in the 2016 area title game Shenendehowa won against Niskayuna. “It fell into place for me and worked out.”
Stucchi, a midfielder, played earlier this summer in the Under Armour Underclass Lacrosse Tournament in Baltimore. The chance to play an elite schedule with The Hill Academy was the top attraction for him to the school. The Hill Academy — whose team includes high school seniors and post-graduate students — competes against top teams in both the United States and Canada.
“Being able to play against the best kids and other Division I commits all the time, I love that competition,” said Stucchi, a 17-year-old who lives in Rexford.
Brodie Merrill, a Georgetown alumnus and professional lacrosse player, is The Hill Academy’s lacrosse director. Merrill played this summer with the Boston Cannons, a team which included Niskayuna native Luke Goldstock.
Kyle Marr, a 2014 Shenendehowa graduate, played at The Hill Academy in 2015 before heading to Johns Hopkins. Stucchi said he’d spoken to Marr — the son of UAlbany men’s lacrosse head coach Scott Marr — about his experience at The Hill Academy.
“He told me he loved it, how much fun he’d had there and how much better it made him,” Stucchi said of Kyle Marr, who was the second-leading scorer this past spring for Johns Hopkins.
Stucchi committed to Loyola after his freshman season at Shenendehowa, three years after Loyola won its only national championships. At The Hill Academy, lacrosse activities are mixed into a day’s schedule along with schoolwork, a lifestyle Stucchi hopes will help prepare him for what things will be like when he gets to his college campus in a year.
The program’s culture, he said, was also a draw for him.
“They’re team-driven, hard-working. They focus on important things like leadership and communication,” Stucchi said. “They stress the intangibles.”
Stucchi said he told Shenendehowa coach Jason Gifford and his teammates of his decision early this summer. He said he appreciated the support they showed him.
“I had three great years at Shen,” Stucchi said. “Best time of my life. Obviously, it’s tough to leave, but you have to do what’s best for you.”