The University of Maryland had already called over 20 times this summer for Riverhead’s Suffolk County Division I Rookie of the Year and blue-chip lacrosse prospect, rising sophomore long-stick midfielder Blake Carrara, according to Vic Guadagnino, head coach of the Riverhead High School varsity lacrosse team.
As Blake’s self-described secretary — because of early recruiting guidelines — Guadagnino knew something was up. Elite colleges were doing the research necessary to ensure that if an investment were made, it would not and should not go south.
The investment? An athletic scholarship.
This Sunday, Blake gave a verbal commitment to University of Maryland, joining their 2016 recruiting class, with three years left to play at the high school varsity level. Maryland’s team, The Terps, is nationally ranked every year and brought in the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class for incoming freshmen this year, so for Blake the decision was essentially a no-brainer— although there were other schools in the mix as well.
Though the verbal commitment is not an official signing, Blake believes that Maryland is exactly where he wants to be so in his eyes the decision is in fact already official.
“I’m pretty much at the best school in the nation,” Blake said. “The top teams are Maryland, UNC, Virginia, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Duke. There is no reason to consider playing anywhere else. I liked the players, the coaches, the stadium, and academics. And they also haven’t recruited many defensemen.”
Maryland, Loyola, Virginia, Yale and Princeton topped the list of schools that interested Blake. Yale and Princeton, being ivy league schools, were unable to offer an athletic scholarship so the final decision ended up involving just three schools.
“Every school I talked to offered me a scholarship,” Blake said. “So it came down to where I really wanted to play.”
Before last season, nobody really knew the name Blake Carrara. It was only after he started every game as a freshman, guarding top players and thriving doing so, did he start getting the attention he deserved.
When the Blue Waves faced Ward Melville very early in the season, Blake was matched up against Jack Bruckner, a Duke University recruit and one of the nation’s best players.
After the game Ward Melville’s coach told Guadagnino: “Man, that 9th-grader you had on Buckner can really play.”
“There was a handful of games this year where people were like ‘He could play at Yale’ knowing he had the grades or ‘He could play at Princeton’,” Guadagnino said. “And they started saying that stuff pretty early in the season and word starts to go around.”
Following the season, in July, Blake participated in the Long Island Showcase, an event you need to try out for. Blake was one of 20 players selected for the Suffolk County team which then squared off with Nassau County’s top 20 players.
“His tryout then and performance during that game in front of those college coaches really blasted him to the top,” Guadagnino said. “Maryland, Loyola, Virginia — they all saw Blake and really liked him.”
“After the showcase, I started getting emails from schools, with questionnaires to be filled out,” Blake said. “Coaches told me that they liked my quickness and ability to grab ground balls.”
Blake finished fourth on the Blue Waves in ground balls last season.
“But I wasn’t too far from first, we were all close,” Blake was quick to mention, putting his competitiveness on display.
The same competitiveness that his coach saw in him from day one.
“He has great work ethic,” Guadagnino said. “He’s incredibly competitive and wants to be the best at everything he does. Whether it be lacrosse, in the classroom, or even playing basketball with his friends. He wants to rise to the top.”
Blake was invited to the Maverick Showtime Rising Sophomore All-Star Game, a nationally recognized event in Danbury, Connecticut, in which only 160 athletes participate from all across the nation.
“The teams that liked him before, fell in love,” Guadagnino said.
After e-mails and phone calls, a visit schedule was set up and Blake went on a three-school-one-day tour following a tournament, all by car, traveling from Maryland, to Virginia, then to Loyola and finishing back in Maryland.
“And it’s not like he visited each place for 10 minutes,” Guadagnino said. “His Maryland visit lasted 6 hours.”
At the time of the Maryland visit Blake admitted that he was actually considering Virginia as his top school. The visit had blown him away and it was the first of the three schools. But he changed his mind, choosing Maryland because of one reason that may be more important above anything else when choosing a college:
“I would just fit in better at Maryland,” Blake said. “I can tell.”
So now that Blake has committed, Guadagnino says, the pressure is on.
“He’s in a select group of kids,” he said. “But few work harder. Blake’s not going to let you down. He just has that be-the-best attitude.”
And it’s that exact attitude Guadagnino hopes to instill in all of his players.
“A lot of kids will slow down and stop playing so much after they give a verbal,” Blake said. “But I don’t want to do that. I’m going to keep working hard so that when I do get to college, I will be the player they are projecting me to be.”
RiverheadLOCAL photo by Emil Breitenbach, Jr.