Cradling his craving

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As a South Philly-bred boy, Louis Cerino Jr. loved playing common sports but eventually came to laud lacrosse, holding that in stopping him from following the pack, the game might grant him continuous opportunities to enjoy novelty. The inhabitant of the 2300 block of South 17th Street has indeed found fresh experiences through every stop along his journey, with April having yielded his second trip to the Czech Republic.

“To have had such a chance to compete and make friends is going to resonate with me for the rest of my life,” the ecstatic athlete said Monday, his 27th birthday. “It’s another step for me in being an advocate for this terrific sport.”

The Girard Estate dweller ventured to the Central European land as a member of the Boston Megamen, one of 21 teams participating in the Aleš Hrebeský Memorial Tournament. The box lacrosse gathering has won global renown, with Cerino happy not only to have represented his country but also to have acquired more belief in his decision to ditch baseball, among other pastimes, for his ever-growing obsession.

“I don’t think there’s anything more exciting,” he opined of his endearing endeavor. “There’s so much creativity involved and so much to learn about yourself, especially when you’re competing on a big stage.”

The local and his contemporaries, whose club has won the pageant three times, most recently in 2012, matched their sticks and stamina against those of equally eager adversaries in the municipality of Radotin. Charged with being a transition player, Cerino, who last year notched eight goals, tallied once in his new role and offered outstanding defensive efforts, with his squad dumping Swiss, Austrian, and German units to advance to the quarterfinals, where it fell 4-3 to Finland. Grabbing two victories after that setback, the Megamen finished fifth in the 23rd annual duel.

“This has definitely become a way of life for me,” Cerino said, noting how the Czech Republic’s natural beauty served as a perfect complement to the strong bonds formed among the hosts and visitors. “I really want to get stronger in my approach as a player and as an ambassador because all aspects of the game really help me and others to grow. From an individual aspect and a team perspective, it’s as much fun to achieve goals as it is to score them.”

When entering the world of lacrosse, with a camp that occurred during his seventh-grade year at St. Monica School, 16th and Porter streets, proving instrumental, he quickly realized that, at least locally, that it was a very small cosmos comprised of practitioners bent on forming a tight-knit brotherhood. Keen on coupling his enthusiasm with the inherent excitement of the action, he sought to make graduate yet noticeable strides as his comprehension matured, with Roman Catholic High School endowing him with an immense confidence boost.

“It was an up and coming program,” he said of his Center City alma mater’s lacrosse status upon his arrival. “I wanted to help us to grow and become a very competitive team in the Catholic League.”

Noting that his I.Q. for the game increased each season during his Cahillites tenure, which included the unit’s initial playoff win during his sophomore year, Cerino decided to intensify his intelligence by enrolling at LaSalle University. The North Philly-based institution sated his curiosity for computer systems/information technology and film studies and granted him four seasons to make history as a passionate pursuer of triumphs.

“I started at attack my entire time there and had a wonderful set of coaches and teammates who were so dedicated to improving each time we went out there together,” Cerino said of his time as an Explorer, a stretch that bore the program’s initial winning season during his freshman campaign and eventual conference and national tournament distinction. “It was the perfect place for me to develop and ponder the next set of experiences that I could have through the sport.”

Leaving as the school’s all-time leading scorer, he soon returned as a coach, with Roman and Haddonfield, New Jersey’s Paul VI High School also having benefited from his wisdom. His infatuation with fostering focus has also bred junior varsity head coaching duties and varsity assistant tasks for Shawnee High School in Medford and trainer employment at The Field House in Moorestown, which is where he also prepared for the Czech Republic’s early spring congregation.

“Last year was amazing, of course, but I was a bit more excited this time because of my familiarity with the tournament and the chance to add a few unforgettable memories,” Cerino said.

Finishing fourth in 2015 and fifth two months ago, the Megamen definitely proved large influences on how he will conduct himself as he plots his next excursions. Locally, Cerino plies his trade through Philadelphia Box Lacrosse Association matchups at Rizzo Rink, 1001 S. Front St., with this year marking his fifth season. Next month, he will participate in a charity tournament in Toronto, with that experience serving as a precursor to his longed-for November involvement in a free agent camp for the New England Black Wolves, formerly the Philadelphia Wings, of the National Lacrosse League.

“I’m constantly preparing for that,” he said of what he hopes will be a fortunate fall trip to Uncasville, Connecticut. “I’m taking in everything that I can because I absolutely love this game. The more I play, coach, and train, the happier I feel about committing myself to seeing what’s possible for me in following my dreams.” SPR

Contact Editor Joseph Myers at jmyers@southphillyreview.com or ext. 124.