Hometown Hero: Nicholas Vazquez
Occasionally, Nicholas Vazquez might be outperformed. But outworked? Now that's a personal affront.
"I take pride in working my hardest, and trying to work harder than everyone else,'' said Vazquez, a freshman midfielder on the Merrimack College lacrosse team, which was ranked seventh nationally in Division 2, but didn't earn an NCAA Tourney berth.
That nose-to-the-grindstone approach has yielded his desired results.
The former Haverhill High standout was a key reserve for the 13-3 Warriors with 14 goals and 5 assists.
He was named Northeast-10 Rookie of the Week after his three first-half goals helped propel the Warriors past Assumption 12-6.
His academic accomplishments are equally noteworthy.
Taking a demanding accounting major, Vazquez earned a 3.625 GPA his first semester. That earned him a spot on Merrimack's Athletic Department Honor Roll.
"I expect it out of myself and I work very hard to achieve it,'' he said. "It took a lot of long nights and a lot of group meetings.''
Like any school, Merrimack sometimes strikes out getting local athletes who want to get away from home.
Vazquez, who was born and raised in Haverhill, saw far more positives than negatives.
"There is free laundry, home-cooked meals, my parents are at every single game,'' said Vazquez, who lives at school. "I looked at lower Division 1 schools, but Merrimack was close and the coach (Mike Morgan) is a great guy. The school was great and the money was there.''
It didn't hurt that his coach at Haverhill High, Bryan Brazill, is one of the leading scorers at Merrimack with 122 career points.
His father, Jimmy Vazquez, is thrilled with his son's decision.
"We were all for it only so we could watch him play,'' said Vazquez, whose oldest son Jamieson is graduating this spring from St. Michael's College. "The coach was very open about him being able to play as a freshman.''
The ride down Rte. 125 is a piece of cake. But Jimmy and his wife Pamela never let distance get in the way.
The Vazquezes drove to Le Moyne in Syracuse and Pace, which is outside of New York City, and everywhere else the Warriors played.
"It's easy to go to one of your son's games,'' said Jimmy, a three-sport star at Westfield High, who played some soccer at Springfield College. "It's a privilege to have your son or daughter play in college. There are beautiful places to go.''
The Warriors would love to pair Nicholas with his brother Nathaniel, a star sophomore for the Hillies.
"He's just as hard a worker,'' said Nicholas, whose second choice was Bentley. "The sky's the limit for him. (Nathaniel) is very interested in Merrimack. I'd love to have one more year on the field with him.''
A search of The Eagle-Tribune archives reveals Nicholas was quite the young athlete, hurling a no-hitter in Haverhill Tri-Star A action, scoring three TDs in a game for the Haverhill Cowboys and beating future Haverhill cross country All-Scholastic Ethan Penney in the city's middle school cross country championships.
Jimmy said, "He's always had athletic ability: soccer, snowboarding, football, cross country, he could run all day.''
Nicholas was a budding football star, but gave up that sport after starting both ways as a junior. He also ran a couple of years of indoor track.
Ultimately, he decided to put all his energy into lacrosse.
"I have no regrets,'' he said. "Where I am now, is where I want to be.''