TEWKSBURY – Luc Surette has always been a self starter. He has always self motivated and ready to give everything he tries his best shot, whether it be school, athletics or work. Just ask his coaches, his teammates, or most recently the young entrepreneur’s business partner and they will tell you same thing. This is a young man who does not need to be told to do the right thing, he simply just does it.
But sometimes doing the right thing and being self motivated simply isn’t enough, a lesson that Surette, a senior defender and captain with the Rivier University Men’s Lacrosse team, learned the hard way recently.
Like so many young college athletes this spring season, the 2016 graduate of Tewksbury High School was in the early stages of what he hoped would be a triumphant final season of his college career when he was hit with the news that the season had been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The joy of being a captain and taking the field with his teammates was quickly replaced with the disappointment of packing up and heading home, his athletic career over, and his life on the Rivier campus over as well.
“That was extremely difficult to deal with. We have six seniors on the team and I lived with four of them, and the other senior lived across the hall in the same dorm so we were all very close,” Surette said. “Originally, we were told that the season was going to be suspended for two weeks, but then we found out that it was the whole season.
“After our last game, we had the chance to have one more practice, so we tried to enjoy that, knowing that it was our last time together. It was pretty emotional, but it was also kind of positive, because we had been seeing so many negative things, it was nice to have something positive. We just tried to make the best of it.”
The Raiders entered this season on the heels of a very successful campaign in 2019, having gone 12-4 last season, and winning their first ever home playoff game in the GNAC Tournament before being eliminated in the semifinals. Rivier had started this season 3-2, having won three games in a row, including an 18-6 win over non-league rival Northern Vermont-Lyndon in their final game.
“I was excited for it, especially after all we accomplished last year. We wanted to get back out there and see what we could do with this amazing group of guys,” Surette said. “It was very disappointing that we did not get to play in any GNAC games. The non-conference games are still important, but once you get into league play, that is what matters most, and we really felt like we were ready to go.”
Rivier coach James DeLanoy, who is in his ninth season as head coach of the Raiders, still recalls how hard it was to tell his team that their season was over
“It is much easier now that reality has kind of set in, but when we first had to tell them that the season was over, that was very tough. We had a very emotional final practice, and we knew it would be the last time we would be together,” DeLanoy said.
It was particularly tough because DeLanoy could see that his team, led by seniors like Surette, was starting to come together.
“We were doing things a lot better in the fourth and fifth game than were doing in the first couple of games,” DeLanoy said. “We were getting to the point of the season where we could start to gauge where our abilities were and we were looking good, but then we had the rug pulled out from under us.”
Prior to the cancellation of the season, one of the highlights of the preseason was when DeLanoy notified Surette and the rest of the team that Surette had been named as a team captain, joining fellow senior Kyle Newman in that role.
“We named him captain after a night of lifting, so the whole team was there. When we announced him, the whole room just went crazy,” DeLanoy said. “Everybody was just so excited and fired up for him. He is so deserving of it. It is not something that is voted on. The coaches pick. It is not a popularity contest, but I will say that it was a very popular choice.
“He has great character. He doesn’t have to be vocal to know what doing the right thing is and to show that to his teammates. Doing the right thing is not always the easiest thing, but that’s what you will see with Luc. He is a throwback in the sense that if something needs to get done, he gets it done. He’s a great kid and I feel really bad that his season was cut short.”
For Surette, being named captain is not something that he will soon forget.
“It was a max lift that we had just finished, so everyone was kind of hyped up anyway, so when coach announced it, we were all so excited,” Surette said. “I talked with the other seniors about our plans for the team, and what we wanted to do to get the most out of the team.
“We always have a pre-season team meeting to talk about what our goals are for the season, and my goal was to be the best captain that I could be. I wanted to be the type of captain that the younger players could come to about anything, whether it was on the field or off the field.”
Not only was Surette ready to be a good leader, but he also seemed prepared to have a great season. While he was an outstanding high school player at Tewksbury High, including being named to the MVC All-Conference team, and had also had an outstanding career even before this season, he had taken a big step forward in his development in the early stages of this season.
Surette started all 16 games for the Raiders last season, helping them become one of the best defensive teams in the GNAC, snaring 19 ground balls and forcing a career high ten turnovers. But this season, in just five games, he had already forced eight turnovers.
“He’s always been a very good player and a very focused player. From his freshman year where he started for us you could see he had the potential,” DeLanoy said. “He had the ability to see what was going to happen, but at that point he was still waiting to see it happen. But this year he was starting to see things that were about to happen and was reacting to the play a couple of moves ahead.”
While obviously disappointed to see his season come to an end, Surette did not let that bad news keep him down, instead making the most of the opportunity to get his landscaping business up and running. He and his friend Bobby Payne, both business majors, had long talked about opening their own landscaping business, so with a little extra time on his hands the self starters got their business, Grounds Up Landscaping & Design up and running.
He and Payne are doing all of this mind you, while still satisfying their academic obligations by attending online classes.
“Bobby and I had decided that after graduation, we wanted to do our own thing, and decided that we wanted to run our own landscaping company,” Surette said. “One of the few good things about having to leave school early the way we did was that we were able to get kind of an early start on our business.
“This past fall, I did an internship with a landscaping company, (Riley Landscaping in Wakefield) and I learned a lot, not just with the landscaping but with all of the behind the scenes things like doing proposals and estimates and things like that. That helped me a lot, and we spent about a year putting together a plan and slowly buying equipment, so we would be prepared to go after graduation. It’s pretty exciting to get it started.”
As excited has he is to be starting his own business, he would certainly preferred to have delayed it for a few months if it meant having the chance to continue his senior season.
“This was a very close team, especially this year with our numbers kind of down so we were spending more time than ever together,” Surette said. “We have been together all the time for the past four years, so to see it cut short was very tough. We knew we had just one season left, and probably just like eight weeks together, but to have it all of a sudden cut down to just three days was tough to take.”