From 1998 to 2001, Alec Hufnagel set the longtime statistical standards for Scarsdale boys lacrosse with a school record 183 goals and 101 assists for 284 points. Well, there’s a new king in town.
Senior Andrew Bernstein, 12 games into his senior year, is now three points shy of 300 as he recently surpassed Hufnagel in two categories. Bernstein stands at 297 total points and 210 goals to go along with 87 assists.
All of this snuck up on Bernstein, who has been amassing goals and assists since he arrived on varsity as a freshman.
“It’s definitely special to me,” Bernstein said. “It’s kind of a tribute to all of my teammates. All of those goals are assisted from someone else and I just put it in the back of the net. Recently it’s been a journey to 300 points. I’ve had that in mind and didn’t even think about the goal milestone. Once I realized it I was super excited. It means a ton.”
Two-time All-Section Bernstein has had outstanding teammates over the years — the award-winners when he was a freshman were Elliot Graham, Will Cabrera, Stephen Nicholas, Cooper Schneider and Seth Thornton — and together they are in one of the most prosperous four-year runs ever in Scarsdale. In 2016, the Raiders made the Section 1 semifinals for the first time since 1997 and returned the next year. Last year they fell in the quarterfinals by one goal and this year the Raiders are looking to get to the finals for the first time since 1972.
Scarsdale was 37-17 over the last three years and with four regular season games left they are 10-2.
“We’ve got to make the season special,” Bernstein said. “We’ve got an opportunity now with our current record to have the best record in school history, I believe. We have the guys to win the section. We just have to focus and stay hungry.”
Third-year varsity head coach James Synowiez called Bernstein the “nucleus” of the team and this year’s playoff run. Synowiez has been coaching Bernstein since freshman year and knew the team was getting a hot prospect. Bernstein came onto varsity and made an immediate impact. He not only earned a starting spot, but also the respect of his much older teammates with his play — 42 goals, 32 assists — and his demeanor.
“Some of the seniors we had were our star players at that point, so it took some of the shadow off the freshman, but he stepped up and put up big numbers, numbers we hadn’t seen here before,” Synowiez said. “It was big for him the way he came in and since he started on attack he hasn’t stopped since.”
What also impresses Synowiez, in addition to all the game-winners Bernstein has had over the years, is that the secret has been out on Bernstein since he was an underclassman, yet defense still have trouble containing him. And when they do with a double-team or another defensive scheme, Bernstein and the coaches chat between quarters and make adjustments to open him back up. “He’s always ready to adapt to do what’s best for the team to help contribute,” Synowiez said.
From Day 1, Bernstein wanted to be the best player on the field, but he was humble and a team player, which has rubbed off on the entire program.
“That’s why he is our singular captain this year, because of that attitude,” Synowiez said. “It’s never about his accolades — it’s always about the team’s success. That’s a testament to his parents and the way that he’s been brought up and how much he cares about the program.”
In the many moments when a teammate grabs the spotlight, Bernstein is among the first to offer congratulations. When a teammate is having an issue, it’s Bernstein by his side helping him through it.
“He just goes out of his way to care more about everybody else than a lot of other people we’ve had here,” Synowiez said.
Freshman year Bernstein was in awe of his teammates and enjoyed working with them to help put Scarsdale back on the map. Keeping the team there was not easy, especially with some intense season-ending playoff losses, two by one goal, the third a four-goal loss in the final eight minutes after being tied at 7-7. The defeats are tough enough, but saying goodbye to the team at the end of each spring is the worst part for Bernstein.
“Every year it’s a different rush, it’s a different thrill because you don’t want to lose that connection you make annually,” Bernstein said.
Bernstein grew up playing basketball and lacrosse, but he always preferred lax and excelled at it. He stopped playing basketball in eighth grade when he started playing year-round for Long Island Express. His goal was to play in college.
Bernstein had committed to Yale early in high school, but reopened his recruiting over the summer. Weighing his improved test scores and the new offers and potential for Division 1, Bernstein found the only place he wanted to be was Northwestern, even though it does not have a lacrosse team. Synowiez called it “another mature decision” for Bernstein as he explores life outside of lacrosse.
“At the end of the day I always put academics first,” Bernstein said. “Although Division 1 lacrosse was still something I had an opportunity to do I wasn’t willing to give up a level of education to do it. There’s professional lacrosse, but I don’t plan on playing it.”
Instead he’ll make the most of his final month of lacrosse, wherever it takes him personally, wherever it takes his team in playoffs, what Synowiez calls the “second season.”
“There’s no next year,” Bernstein said. “There’s no gaining time back. It’s about letting the younger guys know this is it for the seniors and letting everyone know to give it all you’ve got.”
With Bernstein to model that behavior, the Raiders are sure to come through this year and for years to come.
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