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AUBURN — Auburn lacrosse is focused on what is ahead.

While he honored his team's seniors and they signed letters of intent, Auburn boys lacrosse coach Matt Smith spoke with parents and athletes about policies, procedures and expectations for the upcoming season during a ceremony at Auburn High School Thursday.

"We incorporate this into our whole presentation to introduce new parents into the program, and we want them to see the seniors that are going on to the next level," Smith said. "We have, as of right now, 12 kids playing in college from the Auburn lacrosse program. There's more kids playing lacrosse than in any other sport in Auburn, and we want the JV parents or the new varsity parents to see that if they put the time in and if they dedicate themselves to the game and the classroom ... it's going to pay dividends in the future. It's more than just the seniors."

Auburn senior Kieran Scanlon signed to play lacrosse at Marywood University, while Greg Walsh agreed to attend Saint Rose. Aiden Tardiff is headed to play lacrosse at Cayuga Community College, and Liam Schultz is still mulling over a couple college options for academics.

Multiple times throughout the meeting Smith stressed the importance of doing well in the classroom.

"The academics have to come first," Smith said. "A lacrosse career is an oxymoron. There's no lacrosse career. ... It's all about building their futures and lacrosse can be a tool to help them do that, but we want to make sure they have more than one tool in the toolbox."

Next year Scanlan is heading to play for Marywood, a Division III school in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Smith described Scanlan as one of the real character guys for the program.

"Kieran has brought class to this program," Smith said. "He's probably one of the nicest, genuine individuals ... What he's brought to us is a sense of civility and that's his greatest attribute. Kieran has been and will be one of Auburn's greatest players — not necessarily because of his play — but who is is as a person."

Smith also credited Schultz, who started out primarily playing football and was the quarterback for the Maroons last season, for putting more time in on his lacrosse skills.

"Last year he started showing up to practice 20 or 25 minutes before (practice), and his game has gotten so much better," Smith said. "Another classy kid. Someone who shows up to everything and it's an honor to have a kid like that around, because he's so dedicated and so honest."

Smith also had praise for Tardiff, who is back on the team after missing last season. Tardiff is expecting to join the Spartans, who are restarting their lacrosse programs.

"We're so happy to have him come back as one of our goalies," Smith said. "He's undecided and he's making a smart decision. He could go on to other schools, but he wants to save some money and see what he wants to do. CCC is a great opportunity for him, especially with a new program."

Smith also has high expectations for Walsh, an attacker who is headed off to Saint Rose in Albany.

"He's our starting attackman and has been on the team since his sophomore year," Smith said. "We're expecting this to be Greg's breakout year."

While it's nice to honor his seniors — and they'll do it more once the season comes to a close — Smith was focused more on the task at hand and what's ahead.

"There's a couple things we have to balance here," Smith said. "We really recognize them at the end of the season at our banquet. The seniors give speeches and we talk about the seniors more, but we have to get the JV information out. Transparency is a huge concern and we want the parents to understand where we're coming from and why we're doing the things that we do. ... I want everyone here to see our seniors sign and see where we're going, but then we have to fit everything else in."

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Sports writer Jeremy Houghtaling can be reached at 315-282-2256 or at jeremy.houghtaling@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenHough.

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