Nutting growing into leadership role for Souhegan boys lacrosse

This will be a different kind of lacrosse season for Joe Nutting.

With a big decision out of the way, the Souhegan High School junior takes on a new role for the Sabers, one that’s sure to draw the attention of opposing teams rather than college coaches.

Last fall, Nutting gave a verbal commitment to play college lacrosse at UMass Lowell, ending a recruiting process he called “fun.” But now, Nutting enters a new phase of his high school career on the field, going from a role player to one of the Sabers’ go-to guys.

“As a freshman and sophomore, I played more midfield and coach (Brad Bishop) put me in somewhere I was needed,” Nutting said. “This year, I get to play attack. That’s really what I love to do. I’m excited to score some goals.”

With Souhegan’s attack hit hard by graduation, Bishop needed someone to step in to carry the load offensively. In Nutting, and fellow junior Brendan Cray, Bishop has two players – both of whom have played on the varsity since they were freshman – who can give the Sabers that leadership.

“They may have taken more middie shifts because we had a bunch of attackmen,” Bishop said. “They’re in the attack position. They’ll both do very well and Joe is going to do a great job trying to quarterback the whole offense.

“It’s going to be different. Now he’s going to attract the best pole on the field as well. He’s going to have to learn how to handle that pressure and still be a leader on the team. It helped sliding in as a freshman, to handle that pressure, and I think it helped him grow into this spot.”

While playing as a freshman will help Nutting take on the expanded role, he also believes it helped in the recruiting process, as he was able to take what he learned playing varsity games against older players and apply it to his playing time with the New Hampshire Tomahawks.

“A freshman, especially with lacrosse, you’re playing against bigger, faster and older kids,” Nutting said. “When you’re at Tomahawks, and it’s against kids your own age, I think it’s easier to standout.

“Bishop was a big help. He gave me a starting role as a freshman and I think that certainly helped with my ability. It helped me progress as a player. You adjust to the speed of the game, and then when you play against kids who are a little slower, you stand out a little more.”

As new program, UMass Lowell stood out to Nutting. The draw of potentially getting to play right away was too much for him to pass up.

“It’s a new program, so I’ll probably get to play, and that’s a huge thing,” Nutting said. “I want playing time. (Coach Ed Stevenson) is very inviting and I know a couple of guys going there. It’s a perfect fit. No one wants to sit on the sidelines. It’s more fun to play.”

Nutting will be doing a lot of that this season for the Sabers, who are off to a 3-0 start in Division I. Bishop has a few things he’d like to see his junior attackman improve on, and believes Nutting will do so by the end of the year.

“I’d like to see him be a little more selfish with the ball and take a step above,” Bishop said. “He does a great job of getting his head up and looking for the backside cuts, and that’s really what a lot of his game is right now. Once he gets comfortable with turning that corner and finishing himself, it’ll help him out more.”

Souhegan is scheduled to play again Saturday at Hanover.