The Maplewood Lacrosse Club completed its 54th season this past spring, with its eighth grade boys team reaching the semifinals of the Northeastern Conference Tournament in the B-flight, as one of the highlights of the season.
Two other major highlights included Mike Whelan receiving Maplewood Lacrosse Man of the Year honors in his sixth and final season coaching in the club, and club president Steve Ramos having an award named after him — and awarded to him.
Both awards are very similar.
The Man of the Year Award is presented to the person who shows outstanding spirit, enthusiasm and dedication to the sport of lacrosse.
The Steven Ramos Award, which was created and presented this year to Ramos, a Maplewood Lacrosse Club lifer, will be given to the person who shows the most love for the sport and for the community going forward.
Both recipients were surprised by the recognition.
"I was very honored, it was very unexpected," Whelan said. "It was nice to be recognized by a group of people who were involved with our team and its success."
Whelan began coaching in the club, when his son entered the third grade and thus the youngest competitive level in the club. Six years later, his son is now headed to Columbia High School, his oldest son will be a senior captain on the varsity squad next year, and Whelan has hung up the coach's whistle for good, saying it's now just a spectator sport for him.
"I was very happy to have the Maplewood Lacrosse Club available to my kids," Whelan said. "It was a great program, we met some great people, and we really had a great experience."
"He was so deserving of it," Ramos said about Whelan winning the award. "He spends countless hours, is so dedicated and is just a great, great guy to have in there."
Ramos, who just completed his 13th season as a coach in the club, grew up in South Orange as a member of the club. He said he had no idea the award had been created, and found it a little strange, especially since he is still alive, and generally awards are named for people posthumously. While he was honored by the award, Ramos said that there were a lot of other people deserving of recognition within the club.
"There are a lot of people who have donated their time, who might not be coaches. But that's what makes this town so great," Ramos said.