Toast of the Coast

More than 200 goals later, Venazio still proving great things come in small packages

Following a season which garnered all-state and All-America honors, Carolina Forest’s Joe Venazio has added one more as this year’s Toast of the Coast boys lacrosse Player of the Year.
Following a season which garnered all-state and All-America honors, Carolina Forest’s Joe Venazio has added one more as this year’s Toast of the Coast boys lacrosse Player of the Year. jhughes@thesunnews.com

Upon first glance, there isn’t much all that imposing about Joe Venazio.

Standing a mere 5-foot-5 and weighing in at 135 pounds, the notion he could make an impact on any physical sport — much less one as grueling as lacrosse — likely would be disregarded by most.

However, doubting this dog would not be a good idea.

“He’s a dynamic player. Everything he does, every time he touches the ball, something great happens,” said Carolina Forest boys lacrosse coach Will Loftin. “Whether or not it is up or down the field, he’s one of those players that, in a game — especially the big ones — you want the ball to stick.”

Originally joining Carolina Forest’s fledgling lacrosse program as an eighth-grader, Venazio earned better than 200 goals during the course of his career, among that total 79 in his senior season. He also contributed on 29 more of his team’s goals.

As a result of his stellar season, he was named a high school All-American by U.S. Lacrosse, one of seven players from the Palmetto State to earn such a distinction. He also earned All-State 5A honors as a result of his work during the 2017 campaign.

It’s time to add another honor to the many he’s racked up through the years, Venazio being named this year’s Toast of the Coast Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year.

Each season, the diminutive attack man’s production increased, going from a modest 24 goals as a freshman to better than three times that total in his final season.

Venazio wasn’t merely a force on the offensive end, where he created 136 shots on goal over the course of the 2017 lacrosse campaign; he also was effective on defense, earning 56 ground balls.

Coming into the season, though, there was a certain void on his resume.

In its short tenure, Carolina Forest had yet to host a playoff game, much less win one. As a result of a 10-5 regular season, the club scratched the first of those off the list, scoring a home postseason matchup against Byrnes.

Merely playing in front of a partisan crowd wasn’t enough for Venazio. If it was going to be his last game in front of Panther fans, the senior attack man wanted to make it special.

In a game featuring more than its share of twists and turns, Venazio turned out to be the difference, scoring six goals while assisting on two more in an 11-10 victory for Carolina Forest.

“It was my last home game here and I just wanted to finish off strong and go further in the playoffs,” he said. “It means so much. I’ve been playing here since the eighth grade, and we hadn’t had a playoff win yet.

“This means so much to me … it’s all I’d been looking forward to.”

With his prep career now in the rear view, Venazio will now focus to wreaking havoc at the net for Coker College, with which he signed this past spring.

Joe L. Hughes II: 843-444-1702, @JoeLHughesII

Editor’s note

This is the fourth installment in a 10-day series honoring the top athletes from the spring high school sports season. Tomorrow: Girls soccer

2017 TOAST OF THE COAST BOYS LACROSSE TEAM

Player of the Year

Joe Venazio

School: Carolina Forest

Year: Senior

Notable: Scored 79 goals while also notching 29 assists during the 2017 lacrosse season, earning All-State Class 5A and U.S. Lacrosse All-America honors, in addition to leading the Panthers to the program’s first postseason win.

Thomas Atchison

School: St. James

Year: Junior

Notable: Scored 46 goals and assisted on three more, also forcing a team-high 104 ground balls this past season en route to earning second team Class 4A-A all-state honors.

Bryant Blackmon

School: St. James

Year: Senior

Notable: Earned a 10-2 record during the 2017 season, giving up less than five goals per game. He stopped better than 68 percent of all opposing shots on goal, good enough to claim first team All-State 4A-A honors.

Tyler Burgess

School: St. James

Year: Junior

Notable: Scored 33 goals and notched nine assists for the Sharks, in addition to forcing 38 ground balls and four takeaways.

Scott Chearney

School: North Myrtle Beach

Year: Senior

Notable: In a rough season for the Chiefs, the midfielder and attack man served as one of the few bright spots.

Alec Dowd

School: Socastee

Year: Senior

Notable: Had 19 goals and eight assists during the 2017 season, while earning 98 ground balls and winning better than 68 percent of his face-offs.

Hanes Grafe

School: Waccamaw

Year: Junior

Notable: A U.S. Lacrosse academic All-American and Class 4A-A second team all-state performer, the Warriors attack man scored 69 goals and assisted on 14 more. He also had 62 ground balls.

Carson Homnick

School: Waccamaw

Year: Junior

Notable: A balanced performer for the Warriors lacrosse team, Homnick scored 31 goals while assisting on 28 more. He also forced 46 ground balls.

Dylan Kennedy

School: Carolina Forest

Year: Senior

Notable: His impact for Carolina Forest was felt on defense, forcing 36 ground balls during the 2017 lacrosse campaign.

Hunter Lane

School: Waccamaw

Year: Junior

Notable: A U.S. Lacrosse academic All-American, he also earned Class 4A-A first team all-state distinction by scoring 27 goals and assisting on 13 more. He also forced 165 ground balls and 44 takeaways.

T.J. McCoy

School: Carolina Forest

Year: Senior

Notable: Won better than 54 percent of his face-offs this past season, scoring six goals and causing 66 ground balls.

Connor Moxley

School: Socastee

Year: Junior

Notable: Led Braves with 33 goals during the 2017 season, to go with nine assists.

Brandon Mitchell

School: St. James

Year: Junior

Notable: Had 30 goals and assisted on 17 more, in addition to forcing 64 ground balls en route to earning second team Class 4A-A all-state distinction.

Matt Sampollo

School: Carolina Forest

Year: Senior

Notable: Scored 28 goals while also notching 17 assists. He also forced 60 ground balls for the Panthers during successful 2017 campaign.

Stephen Sperbeck

School: Socastee

Year: Senior

Notable: Had 20 goals and 10 assists for the Braves this past season, in addition to forcing 48 ground balls.

Logan Thibodeau

School: Carolina Forest

Year: Senior

Notable: Scored 25 goals and had 10 assists, also forcing 37 ground balls for the Panthers this past season.

Coach of the Year

Marc Frechette

School: Waccamaw

Notable: Led the Warriors to wins in 13 of their 16 contests, and their first playoff win in program history.

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