GROTON -- Growing up in Arlington, Groton-Dunstable head coach Rick Arena did not pick up his first lacrosse stick until he was a sophomore member of the Bowdoin College football team. His assistant coach approached him and said he should tryout for lacrosse in the spring.
"The first game of lacrosse I played was the first I ever saw," Arena said. "I had no idea what the sport was like to me it was a private school game. When I was a senior, we won the whole thing. Lacrosse was a great experience for me. I played for a great coach in Mort LaPointe with a bunch of All-Americans. I was introduced to the game at a high level."
Arena took his football coach's advice, and he eventually worked his way into the starting lineup as a junior. That is when his love for the game of lacrosse was born.
Arena started the fledgling Groton-Dunstable lacrosse program in 2004, and he has been with the Crusaders since its inception for all but one season when he was on sabbatical in Europe.
Last Tuesday, Arena returned to his hometown of Arlington for the Division-3 Central/Eastern Mass. semifinal against childhood rival Arlington Catholic. The Groton-Dunstable coach led his team to a 11-5 victory. And, with that, Arena recorded his 100th career win.
"I didn't even know I had won my 100th game until the guys doused me," Arena joked. "I said to the guys what are you dousing me for? We haven't won anything, yet. Having grownup in Arlington and going to Arlington High School, beating Arlington Catholic is pretty sweet.
"It is rare that Groton-Dunstable and Arlington meet on any level. What a treat it was to play Arlington Catholic. There were some guys who I grew up with, along with my mother and my nephew there to witness it."
Arena did not know he had 100 wins, but his assistant Colin Murphy did. Coach Murphy notified the team and their parents via Facebook that coach Arena was approaching 100 win.
"My mother came up to me and asked why they doused me," Arena said. "We really didn't understand, why. When i found out, I told her: 'Ma, it's my 100th win. I didn't know.'It was a good surprise for all of us.
"The win was exciting enough, but we knew from that opening faceoff where that game was going. That was a special win and then to get 100 was just awesome."
Arena is only the fourth lacrosse coach in Central Mass history to achieve win number 100. Arena joins Rob Vigeant, former St. John's of Shrewsbury head coach, Rich Luongo, of Algonquin, and Alan Rotatouri, of Grafton.
"The first win of my career was a really special one," Arena said. "Those kids really loved playing lacrosse, but we were all new at it. It was something that was new to the town and it was still growing. We weren't really over-talented and at that time I didn't have that much experience as a coach. Lacrosse has exploded since then."
Arena never kept tabs on how close he was to winning game 100, he focused game-to-game, practice-to-practice.
"One day I was talking to one of the coaches at the school and he asked how many wins I had," Arena said. " I told him I didn't know. It's all about the players we have and the next game. When you start looking at the bigger picture and career-type things, you start losing your focus. When I sit and look back on it, that's when I will enjoy winning 100. I really love the alumni game because I can see all of those guys come back and play again. All of those guys had a big part in the 100 wins."