One spring day Nick Lacagnina was playing outfield in a little league game and noticed other boys running around with lacrosse sticks on a nearby field.
"I saw kids screaming and hitting each other and it looked so much more intense," he recalled. "We love sports where you could show your speed and be physical."
The "we" he is referring to are his two brothers Chris and Pete Jr., who had been baseball and football kids until Nick was awestruck by the game Native Americans were playing on American soil for nearly 400 years.
Since Pete Jr. – the youngest – looks up to Nick, he decided to give it a try and Chris – the oldest – is always game for a contact activity.
"I didn't even know what lacrosse was," joked their father, Pete Sr.
The Lacagninas moved to the Sachem community 15 years ago from Brooklyn, where lacrosse is something kids see on television if they happen to watch the NCAA tournament once a year. Brooklyn is a borough of baseball and basketball. The home to the now deceased Ebbets Field and to street basketball where many NBA players hail from, it was never a stomping ground for lacrosse.
Sachem has been, however, for the better part of the last 30 years.
It was a fitting change for Sharon and Pete to bring their family to the suburbs where the boys could flock to any sport field. They all did brilliantly, taking to football in the fall, wrestling in the winter and of course lacrosse in the spring.
"When we were younger if we were board we'd have a catch," said Nick. "We'd always chase each other around the house. It was pretty exciting. It made us a lot better, constantly playing sports."
The interesting trait of the Lacagnina boys is that while they're the same at heart – tough, blue-collar type athletes, who will do anything for their teams – they all play sports differently.
Chris, 22, led the way as the oldest, and was the rough and tough bruiser. He was a fullback, a heavy weight wrestler and a long-stick defender.
Nick, 20, has always been the speedy and elusive threat. He can put a spin move on a defender and shake him out of his cleats.
Pete, 17, has the fortune of combining the physical approaches of both brothers to make for a speedy and powerful lacrosse player. He started as a defender to mimic Chris, but since he's not as big he has adapted his methods into a fast defensive midfielder, who can score, take face-offs and pick up groundballs at will.
This season, if you're following Sachem East lacrosse, you'd know that Pete Jr. has scored 16 goals and added four assists. Fifteen of the tallies have come in the last five games, all wins for East, which started the season as a No. 13 seed and has quickly become one of the hottest teams in Suffolk County Division I.
This is no fluke. Pete Jr. put the work in over the summer, running five miles from his Farmingville house to East, then running sprints in the afternoon and spending hours shooting at night in a local park.
"He immersed himself in lacrosse," said Pete Sr.
Maybe it was because he wants the Sachem name to mean something on the lacrosse field as it did for decades, or because he saw Nick win a Division II National Championship at C.W. Post last season, or because he saw the hard work it took for Chris to play lacrosse at New York Tech and then football at Worchester Polytechnic Institute.
Perhaps the main fire behind all of the Lacagnina men is Sharon. She loved to attend her boys' games and like her husband was proud upon belief of the athletic and academic success of her three sons.
And then in September 2008 she lost her battle with lung cancer.
"We were devastated," Pete Sr. said, "but we have a strong family. We all came together with a lot of love and hung in there. We reinvented each other and supported one another."
Chris, an engineering major at WPI, had already been in college at the time, having graduated from East in 2006. He didn't like the atmosphere on the lacrosse team at NYIT, and was able to transfer with little hassle to WPI, where he tore a groin muscle and injured his back playing football. He currently plays club lacrosse for his college to stay active because he loves the game.
Nick is one of the few college athletes to have won a national championship – a dream thousands of lacrosse players set out to accomplish at least once in their four or five year careers and seldom capture.
"We charged the field and it was so unreal," he recalled. "That's why you play the sport for moments like that."
Playing against a ferocious Le Moyne team that was picked to win, Post won 8-7 in Foxboro, Mass. Nick swears that Sharon was a key ingredient in Post's triumph.
"There was sort of a weird connection between [her passing and the win]," he said. "She was looking down on us and guiding me. We won the championship by one against a team we weren't supposed to beat. In the last minute they were hitting posts left and right. My mom played a role in our win."
Nick has started every game of his college career and is a junior at Post today. Pete will join him next year, where the two will play together for the first time.
"I'll face off when he's on the wing," Pete said. "I'm looking forward to it. Everything my brothers did I had to do. I just tried to do it better."
Pete Jr. admits he'd rather be playing lacrosse than doing anything else. While other seniors were away in Washington, D.C. on the senior trip, he was on the field at East practicing.
Pete Sr., a project manager for a construction firm on Long Island, has been a major supporter of Sachem athletics for some time. He can be seen at football games with the traditional Native American headdress and tries to attend as many games as he can for all of his sons.
The Lacagnina men had matching tattoos eternally inked to their skin the week Sharon passed away. The design is of her favorite cross necklace that she wore and of the Tiger symbol representing her birth month. It also says, "In Loving Memory," of Sharon and mom, depending upon who got the image.
Chris has another one on his chest that reads, "you may hold my hand for awhile, but you hold my heart forever."
The Lacagninas will always have a guiding force in their corner when they're looking for someone to dish them an assist.