Coach Tyler Foss has Donovan Catholic boys lacrosse on upward trend

April 19, 2024 at 7:00 a.m.
Donovan Catholic's Andrew Baltus (7) splits the Lacey defense en route to a five-goal, four-assist game against Lacey Apr. 10. Photo courtesy Lacey Boosters
Donovan Catholic's Andrew Baltus (7) splits the Lacey defense en route to a five-goal, four-assist game against Lacey Apr. 10. Photo courtesy Lacey Boosters

By RICH FISHER
Contributing Editor

The Donovan Catholic, Toms River boys’ lacrosse program had a 33-96 record in the previous 11 seasons before Tyler Foss took charge in 2022. The former Toms River North and Kean University player came in with a simple plan. 

“You try to build the culture of working hard and being respectful to your teammates, your opponents and your coaches,” Foss said. “You try to have a culture built around fun and at the same time you’re constantly working hard. Your first year it’s hard for the seniors to buy in on that, but the sophomores and juniors that are still here started to buy in and that reflects our recent success.”

The Griffins went 4-13-1 in Foss’s first season, but the groundwork had been laid. Donovan Catholic went 12-7 last year and won the first Shore Conference Tournament game in program history. This season the Griffins are 3-2 with their losses being by a total of one and two goals.

Foss was disappointed by an 18-17 setback to St. John Vianney, Holmdel Apr. 15, saying, “We came off the bus really slow and not ready to play. You kind of shake that one off. We still scored a bunch, but as far as a total team it wasn’t reflective of what we’re capable of. You live and you learn.”


Junior Lucas Bova (34) tries to get around a Lacey defender during Donovan Catholic's 21-9 victory Apr. 10. Photo courtesy Lacey Boosters 

 They need no lessons in scoring, as a powerful offensive attack averages 17 goals per game behind freshman Gavin Nascimento (23 goals, 17 assists), junior Teague Hibbard (22 G, 11 A), senior Jack Farlekas (15 G, 8 A) and senior Andrew Baltus (13 G, 4 A). 


“Gavin is the future of the program, I believe he’s leading the state in points for freshmen,” Foss said. “He’s either at attack or midfield, depending on the situation. Gavin’s been as good a freshman as a coach could ask for.”

Foss calls Teague “a special talent and one of the focal points of our offense,” and feels that Farlekas “Is a great leader and a very talented player.”

Baltus is a team captain whose work ethic is unquestioned. He has won 62 faceoffs this year and is one of the Griffins top two-way players.

“When I came in my first year he was just one of those kids who really bought in,” Foss said. “He’s everything I want as a player.”

Another guy chipping in up front is senior Jack Kerwin with seven goals and nine assists.

“He’s really helped out the last three years, and he’s kind of coming into his role this year,” Foss noted.

Defensively, sophomore Jack Barone is a second-year player who was just trying to learn the game last year before switching to goalie two weeks into preseason practice.

“The kid defines what I’m trying to build as far as doing everything to help the team out,” Foss said. “His growth from last year is night and day. You can tell he loves lacrosse after not knowing anything about it last year. He’ll continually get better.”

In front of Barone is sophomore Jayden Nascimento, Gavin’s brother, who the coach feels “is clearly our best player on the field. He’s a physical force on defense, he’s a vocal forefront of the defense. Without him our defense would be in shambles.”


Explosive freshman Gavin Nascimento (15), who leads Donovan Catholic in scoring, gets ready to launch a shot against Lacey. Photo courtesy Lacey Boosters

The remaining defensive starters are senior Robert Armstrong, first-year lax player Elijah Ravenell and Alex Sles.

“Robert helped us out a ton stepping into a role he didn’t know he’d be in,” Foss said. “Elijah is a phenomenal athlete. It’s just getting his stick skills down but he can run with anyone. Alex is another special talent for us. He floats around but he’s a kid I always want on the field.”

Foss said the goals this season are to win the Freedom Division title, gain another SCT victory and qualify for states again. He has a group with ample experience as a number of players are in club lacrosse. The problem is, the roster had gone from 25 to 23 to just 19 players this year.

Apparently, the less Donovan Catholic has, the better it does.

“I hope that remains true for the rest of the season,” Foss said with a laugh. “We’re hurting for numbers but the talent is still there. We show up with about four or five subs and teams look at us like ‘What the heck?’ But these guys are working and buying into things. I’d love to be a program with 40, 50 kids, it must be nice. But we roll with the punches, float pieces around and work with what we’ve got. I’ll take my 19 guys over 50 other guys.”

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The Donovan Catholic, Toms River boys’ lacrosse program had a 33-96 record in the previous 11 seasons before Tyler Foss took charge in 2022. The former Toms River North and Kean University player came in with a simple plan. 

“You try to build the culture of working hard and being respectful to your teammates, your opponents and your coaches,” Foss said. “You try to have a culture built around fun and at the same time you’re constantly working hard. Your first year it’s hard for the seniors to buy in on that, but the sophomores and juniors that are still here started to buy in and that reflects our recent success.”

The Griffins went 4-13-1 in Foss’s first season, but the groundwork had been laid. Donovan Catholic went 12-7 last year and won the first Shore Conference Tournament game in program history. This season the Griffins are 3-2 with their losses being by a total of one and two goals.

Foss was disappointed by an 18-17 setback to St. John Vianney, Holmdel Apr. 15, saying, “We came off the bus really slow and not ready to play. You kind of shake that one off. We still scored a bunch, but as far as a total team it wasn’t reflective of what we’re capable of. You live and you learn.”


Junior Lucas Bova (34) tries to get around a Lacey defender during Donovan Catholic's 21-9 victory Apr. 10. Photo courtesy Lacey Boosters 

 They need no lessons in scoring, as a powerful offensive attack averages 17 goals per game behind freshman Gavin Nascimento (23 goals, 17 assists), junior Teague Hibbard (22 G, 11 A), senior Jack Farlekas (15 G, 8 A) and senior Andrew Baltus (13 G, 4 A). 


“Gavin is the future of the program, I believe he’s leading the state in points for freshmen,” Foss said. “He’s either at attack or midfield, depending on the situation. Gavin’s been as good a freshman as a coach could ask for.”

Foss calls Teague “a special talent and one of the focal points of our offense,” and feels that Farlekas “Is a great leader and a very talented player.”

Baltus is a team captain whose work ethic is unquestioned. He has won 62 faceoffs this year and is one of the Griffins top two-way players.

“When I came in my first year he was just one of those kids who really bought in,” Foss said. “He’s everything I want as a player.”

Another guy chipping in up front is senior Jack Kerwin with seven goals and nine assists.

“He’s really helped out the last three years, and he’s kind of coming into his role this year,” Foss noted.

Defensively, sophomore Jack Barone is a second-year player who was just trying to learn the game last year before switching to goalie two weeks into preseason practice.

“The kid defines what I’m trying to build as far as doing everything to help the team out,” Foss said. “His growth from last year is night and day. You can tell he loves lacrosse after not knowing anything about it last year. He’ll continually get better.”

In front of Barone is sophomore Jayden Nascimento, Gavin’s brother, who the coach feels “is clearly our best player on the field. He’s a physical force on defense, he’s a vocal forefront of the defense. Without him our defense would be in shambles.”


Explosive freshman Gavin Nascimento (15), who leads Donovan Catholic in scoring, gets ready to launch a shot against Lacey. Photo courtesy Lacey Boosters

The remaining defensive starters are senior Robert Armstrong, first-year lax player Elijah Ravenell and Alex Sles.

“Robert helped us out a ton stepping into a role he didn’t know he’d be in,” Foss said. “Elijah is a phenomenal athlete. It’s just getting his stick skills down but he can run with anyone. Alex is another special talent for us. He floats around but he’s a kid I always want on the field.”

Foss said the goals this season are to win the Freedom Division title, gain another SCT victory and qualify for states again. He has a group with ample experience as a number of players are in club lacrosse. The problem is, the roster had gone from 25 to 23 to just 19 players this year.

Apparently, the less Donovan Catholic has, the better it does.

“I hope that remains true for the rest of the season,” Foss said with a laugh. “We’re hurting for numbers but the talent is still there. We show up with about four or five subs and teams look at us like ‘What the heck?’ But these guys are working and buying into things. I’d love to be a program with 40, 50 kids, it must be nice. But we roll with the punches, float pieces around and work with what we’ve got. I’ll take my 19 guys over 50 other guys.”

The Church needs quality Catholic journalism now more than ever. Please consider supporting this work by signing up for a SUBSCRIPTION (click HERE) or making a DONATION to The Monitor (click HERE). Thank you for your support.

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