Asked if he'd spent much time on the grass field at Moorestown stadium over the last several years, Damon Legato paused, looked around, and seemed to take it in one last time.
"Nope," he said. "This is actually my first time back."
Legato, first-year coach of the Haddonfield boys' lacrosse team, was a decorated player for Moorestown in the early 1990s. He coached the team from 2000 to '05, leading the Quakers to South Jersey's first boys' lacrosse state championship in 2001.
There were plenty of emotions Legato said he felt before, during, and after his team's 12-4 loss at Moorestown on Monday night. Not the least of those was a vivid reminder of what success is all about and what it's going to take to bring his current team to the level of his former.
". . . It's a great experience for our guys to play against a team like Moorestown," said Legato, who spent several years away from the high school game after leaving Moorestown because of scheduling conflicts with his job. "These are the games where you can see the growth. The IQ of the players increases from these experiences. We want to build our program to the level of teams like Moorestown. And games like this show us what it takes."
Legato said he would have liked a win in his return to his old home field, but he's not crushed by the loss.
Despite graduating 16 seniors from last year's state championship team, Moorestown (8-4), No. 2 in The Inquirer's top 10, has spent this season firmly establishing itself as one of the top teams in the state.
The Quakers took a 9-2 lead into halftime against No. 3 Haddonfield (11-3). But the Bulldogs bounced back to play a relatively even match for most of the second half.
"I'm happy with how hard our guys worked," Legato said. "I think the adjustments we made at halftime were executed well. Defensively, we contained them in the second half."
"The first half, we moved the ball really well, we were cutting, we were doing a good job of moving our feet," said Moorestown coach Baron Wallenhurst. "We did a good job possessing the ball and controlling the game."
Haddonfield 1 1 2 0 - 4
Moorestown 5 4 1 2 - 12
H - Mike Walker 2, Gunnar Apgar, Quinn Jacobs, M - Drew Hillman 5, Matt Olbrich 4, Mike Handlan 2, Alex Martinelli.
Saves: H - Jeff Sabatini 3; Dan Lynch 3; M - Dan Willis 5.