Mountain Lakes standout Tripucka living his lacrosse dreams in MLL

Mountain Lakes standout Tripucka living his lacrosse dreams in MLL

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Mountain Lakes standout Tripucka living his lacrosse dreams in MLL

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Jake Tripucka is living a dream.

The former Mountain Lakes and Duke University lacrosse player is now playing professionally with the Charlotte Hounds, one of eight teams that makes up Major League Lacrosse.

“It feels pretty awesome, it’s a huge honor to play with guys that are this good and I’m excited to get the opportunity,” Tripucka said. “It’s definitely a dream of mine, it is any time you play sports you dream of playing professionally. I finished college and that was awesome but it was the next step and I don’t want to stop playing now.”

Tripucka ended his college career at Duke on a high note as the Blue Devils won their second NCAA title in four years. He also had 47 goals, 48 assists, 74 groundballs and 16 caused turnovers while playing nearly every position on the field.

Tripucka was taken in the 2013 MLL Draft in the sixth round as the 42nd overall pick by the Hamilton (Canada) Nationals and two weeks later was traded to the Hounds.

“One of the things (we liked about him) was his athleticism and versatility,” Hounds coach Mike Cerino said. “He can play on both sides of the ball. He’s a good matchup on offense and he also has the ability to shine on the defensive side of the field.”

The city of Charlotte has a special meaning for Tripucka and his family. His father, Kelly Tripucka, played in the NBA and was an original member of the Charlotte Hornets for three seasons and both Tripucka and his older brother Travis were born there. After Kelly retired in 1991, the family relocated to Boonton where they still reside.

“It’s actually kind of weird that it happened to work out like that,” Jake said of playing in Charlotte. “Once I got down here I met a lot of people who knew (Kelly), so it was definitely weird going to the same city but it’s nice that I got to meet people that he knows and my family knows.”

Tripucka started playing lacrosse in the sixth grade and was also playing baseball at the time. In middle school he would have baseball games and then at 6 p.m. he would have lacrosse practice. He shuttled back and forth for three years and then decided he needed to make a choice, and he chose lacrosse.

In high school at Mountain Lakes, he played under iconic coach Tim Flynn and won back-to-back state titles as a sophomore and a junior. As a senior he was ranked the 27th-best player in the country.

With Charlotte, Tripucka has been reunited with a few familiar faces. Defender Joe Cinosky is a Mountain Lakes graduate and was also an assistant coach at Duke. Defender Steve Dircks is also a Mountain Lakes alumni and attack Matt Danowski also coached Tripucka at Duke.

“Honestly once I found out I was going to (Canada) I was excited to get the opportunity,” Tripucka said. “It was obviously huge for me and two weeks later I was traded and I was more excited because I would be playing with Matt and Joe. I watched their games last year and I was just happy to be in the picture.”

Tripucka said he’s starting to get more acclimated to the league, which is a lot different than playing in college. In the MLL, players work outside jobs during the week and report to the team on the weekends for games.

So far this season Tripucka has appeared in three games and has scored twice since he was activated on June 10. According to Cerino, Tripucka has made an impact all over the field.

“Interestingly enough in two different games he had to play on the defensive side of the ball and most of his rotations came on midfield and he was able to come up with a goal in transition,” Cerino said. “We play Boston in a week and he’ll play more on the offensive side. His ability to be a complete midfielder, he’s been on national championship teams at Duke, he brings a certain work ethic that we’re looking for to help the team.”

At this point in his career, all Tripucka wants to do is keep playing and help his team win no matter what.

“Any kind of player wants to figure out what they can do to help the team win,” he said. “For me it’s to come in and play as well as I can and help win, and if that means a goal or playing defense or assists or whatever it is, I’m ready to do it. If I can just keep playing and staying with the program and helping the program win, that’s all I can ask for.”

The Hounds are currently 4-5 and five games out of first place. There are five games left and only the top four teams make the playoffs. Charlotte will face the Boston Cannons at 8 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2.

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