MOREHEAD CITY — Sam Suggs is not afraid to try new things.
He picked up a lacrosse stick for the first time just three months before his freshman season. This year, he started competitive swimming for the first time when he joined the team at West Carteret, and during the season attempted competitive diving for the first time.
“I’m always just like, ‘why not,’” the junior said.
Suggs’ new forays had far different starts.
The lacrosse team went 0-10 in his freshman campaign before winning the regular season finale.
The Patriots lost seven of those games by at least 11 goals and dropped the 10 by an average of 10.6 goals.
Suggs, a standout student with a 3.97 GPA, had tried his hand at football in the fall but decided it wasn’t for him. He switched to lacrosse after his friends asked him to join the team. After beginning in the midfield, he transferred to his more natural defensive spot.
“Every sport I’ve played I’ve been on defense,” he said. “I played left back in soccer most of the time, so with that defensive positioning and logic, it really helped me. I picked up the long pole toward the end of my freshman season and moved to defense, and luckily, I had some senior players that helped me figure out what to do.”
Suggs credited Alonzo Munagorri and Joe Demianczyk for mentoring him on defense. No matter the sport, he’s found himself drawn to the defensive side.
“I don’t know why I like it,” he said. “I just like hitting people. Locking people up gives me a satisfaction.”
Suggs’ defensive ability has helped the lacrosse team enjoy a surprising turnaround.
His sophomore season looked much like his freshman year with West going winless in its first eight games.
Then something remarkable happened.
The Patriots rattled off four wins in a row, including a 14-5 victory over Eastern Alamance in their first-ever state playoff appearance.
“We picked up some guys throughout the season, and we started to click,” Suggs said. “Our defense was the heart of our team.”
The squad surrendered 19 goals during the four-game winning streak, giving up more than five goals just once. Suggs ranked third on the team with 37 ground balls.
He reported he had a lightbulb moment at some point during his sophomore season.
“I could tell I was able to influence the game,” he said.
Suggs said the improvement began before the winning streak.
West fell 7-6 in overtime and then 3-2 in a pair of games versus Swansboro and also dropped a 7-5 contest to Croatan.
“We had a lot of close games where if we would have scored seven more points in three select games, we would have had a winning record,” he said.
A winning record is the team’s goal this season.
And so far, so good.
The Patriots are off to a 3-0 start. The defense has again paved the way, giving up just three goals in one contest and two in another.
“A lot of the new players have decided they want to play defense,” Suggs said. “Chris Nebraski and me can help guide the newer players where we need help.”
One of Suggs’ greatest contributions has come on the recruiting side. After struggling with roster numbers throughout its history, West now has 29 players.
“I recruited either five or six,” he said. “I got a lot of my friends out there. I told them how much fun it was. My freshman year, most games we only had one or two subs. Now we have a good dozen or more every game.
Fifteen members of the roster are freshman, many of whom had never picked up a stick before.
“It was a little bit tough trying to teach them how to play at first, but they’ve come a long way, and hopefully we’ll keep winning,” Suggs said. “They’ve really become a part of the team culture.”
Suggs’ first participation in competitive swimming this winter saw him find instant success.
He finished fourth in the 50-yard freestyle in 25.11 seconds at the conference meet and placed fifth in the 100-yard freestyle in 56.95. At the 3A regional, he joined Braxton Morris, Cooper Law and Kai Taylor to help the 200-freestyle relay team to a third-place time of 1:36.99.
West finished as the regional runner-up.
“I believed swimming helped me stay in shape,” he said. “It’s a lot of aerobic exercise, and it definitely helped with my shoulders. I’ve had problems where they would almost pop out of place. I felt like I dislocated it in a game last season, so it’s strengthened my shoulders.”
Colton Ellis, David Garner, Morris and Suggs created the first diving team in county history during the season. Each ended up qualifying for the regional by completing five of six dives.
On Jan. 13, they took part in their first-ever diving meet in Raleigh. The previous day featured their first-ever practice.
“I said, ‘why not,’” Suggs said. “It just clicked. It was crazy how much better we got in a short amount of time.”
Here are a few of Sugg’s favorite things, as well as his ideal groups with which to eat dinner and survive a zombie apocalypse, and the five items he would take with him on a deserted island:
Favorite Movie: “Cars.”
Favorite TV Show: “Breaking Bad.”
Favorite Cartoon: “South Park.”
Favorite Band/Artist: MF Doom.
Favorite Song: “It Was a Good Day” by Ice Cube.
Favorite Book: “Magic Tree House.”– Mary Pope Osborne.
Favorite Team: Seattle Seahawks.
Favorite Athlete: Chris Gray.
Favorite Vacation: Legoland.
Favorite Hobby: Swimming.
Favorite Subject: History.
Favorite Quote: “Cogito, Ergo Sum.” – René Descartes.
Favorite Food: Pancakes.
Favorite Drink: Whole milk.
Favorite Restaurant: Beach Bumz.
Favorite Season: Fall.
Favorite Sports Memory: “Getting third on my relay at the regional swim meet.”
Favorite Teacher: Mr. Alan Broadhurt.
Favorite Sport: Lacrosse.
Favorite Pre-Game/Post-Game Ritual: “Eyeblack.”
Favorite Website/App: Snapchat.
Favorite Follow on Social Media: No Context Lacrosse.
Ideal Dinner Guest List: Abraham Lincoln, Conor McGregor, Frederick Douglass, Julius Caesar and Darth Vader.
Ideal Group to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse: David Garner, Richard Jiang, Josh Knipe, Ford Jenkins, Holden Hinson and coach Brian Roberts.
Items for a Deserted Island: Knife, hammock, surfboard, shovel, and a bucket.
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