The season is about to begin in earnest in New York, so I figure its high time I lay out there who I think will ultimately get to Rochester come June 6.
I will stop short of actually predicting a champion in each classification, but I will throw out there four teams in each class that I believe have the best shot.
Ill get this out there right now: Though I dont want to be locked into calling any team a lock, I will say this: The capital region will win a state title THIS year.
Coming next week: Breaking down Connecticut
Heres how it will work: I will name two frontrunners to get to the title game, one team on the cusp (if things break right) and one to watch. Again, there is no scientific method to my madness. I just go with my gut and base a lot of what I say on tradition, current strength and intangibles.
Here we go
Likely final matchup: West Genny vs. West Islip
Obviously this is not a stretch of anyones imagination. You dont need to know who Genny is bringing back in a given year. All you need to know is this is the best high school lacrosse program in the nation, with the best coach to ever blow a whistle. Mike Messere will take whatever he has, plug it into a system he has honed for decades and will produce a team that may not lose a game until the state final.
The Wildcats have an easier road to the final. I know Syracuse is considered a hotbed of lacrosse, but only in general terms. West Genny is the hotbed. Occasionally, someone else comes along and catches them in a down year, but those years are few and very far between.
West Islip is a tremendous program that has taken a quantum leap in the last decade, surpassing the Ward Melvilles and Farmingdales of the world. The Lions have done 0 to Coyne or Hofstra (and possibly Rochester) in about 20 seconds.
I look forward to actually seeing the great talent of Nicky Galasso. I will keep my eye on the Islip-Melville matchup, because that one could go a long way toward determining who will face Genny when it really matters.
On the cusp: Yorktown
We up here know all there is to know about the great tradition of Yorktown lacrosse. We know all about the great stars they have produced over the years and the incredible run of 27 Section 1 titles in 29 years. But what we and everyone else will learn this season is the ‘Huskers can and will win with defense, as a fine complement to star players John Ranagan and Kevin Interlicchio. This is the most balanced Yorktown team in years. Do the Huskers beat Islip in the state semifinals? I think for once, they wont go in as big underdogs. Town will be dogs for sure, but dogs with a legitimate shot of winning not just that game, but the next one as well.
One to watch: Ward Melville
The Patriots have not won a state championship since 2000, which is rather incredible considering who they are. This is a program that prides itself on defense, winning tight games and physical intimidation. Just keep an eye on them.
Great factoid on Melville: Did you know that over the Patriots’ last 97 games, spanning 2004-08, they have allowed more than 10 goals just eight times? It’s true. It’s true.
Likely final matchup: Niskayuna vs. Corning East
Heres where I stick my neck out. Nisky is bringing back many players from last years Class A state quarterfinal squad (9-6 loss to Yorktown). The Silver Warriors drop to Class B opens the door to the Albany areas first state championship. (Nisky lost in the Class A finals to Genny in 2005.) Mike Vorgang is a heck of a coach who stresses defense, ball control and fundamentals.
Nisky will be a handful for just about everyone and since that juggernaut of a team from Class B on Long Island has not been identified yet. (Im not sold on Garden City yet.) I like Niskys chances of steamrolling its way to Long Island. Im eager to see who, if anyone, will stop them in the semis.
Corning East, which has jumped back and forth between Class B and Class C over the last few years, is now once again the team to watch upstate among the medium-sized schools.
At some point, Corning East will have to deal with some combination of Jamesville-DeWitt, Carthage and someone from the western part of the state (maybe Hamburg?).
East has shown one thing all through its storied history it gets to state finals. Try 13 of them. But its bugaboo has been actually winning the big game. East has lost an astounding 12 times in state finals, including last year to Mount Sinai.
On the cusp: Garden City
The Trojans, like Ward Melville in Class A, are in the midst of a long state championship drought, having last won in 2000. GC is off to a weird start in 2009, but we may chalk that loss to Syosset up to a case of the first-game blues. One has to figure that sooner or later GC, with University at Albany-bound standout attackman Will Fuller and Hobart-bound defender Reid Rosello, will re-establish itself as the premier program in Class B on the Island, but Im not sure it will be this year.
One to watch: Lynbrook (with smaller eye on Rocky Point)
Heres a storied program, one that goes back to the days before classifications. I cant say this is the team to beat, but I can say Lynbrook was good last year and already 4-0 this season. Just keep an eye on them as well.
I’m saying Rocky Point because I’m interested to see how they’ll do defending their Class B state crown with one Palasek gone. Tuesday’s 6-5 win over Middle Country wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for.
Likely final matchup: Manhasset vs. Lafayette
Connor English hopes to go out on top. Manhasset has been a disappointment over the last few seasons, considering the hype and love it has received in various polls. Cold Spring Harbor tattooed Manhasset last year when it mattered. Whats odd is Manhasset has won just two state titles in its long history 1995 in B and 2004 in C. Does that seem odd to anyone else, considering all the hype that always seems to follow this program around?
Lafayette is the class of the upstate small schools. It is explosive, athletic and built yearly to run and gun you to death. Lafayette beat Manhasset in the 2005 state final 10-9. I expect these two to meet again when it matters most.
On the cusp: Cold Spring Harbor
The win over Manhasset in last years Section 8 title game looked like the springboard CSH needed to win its second state crown, but Mount Sinai had other ideas. The rivalry between CSH and ‘Sett is pretty insane and is only getting more intense. Its possible whoever survives among these two will meet Lafayette for all the marbles.
One to watch: John Glenn-Elwood (with a smaller eye on Homer)
Since Mount Sinai appears to have been hit hard by graduation, Im going to just throw Elwood out there. I dont expect them to do anything substantial, but my guess is they could be the team that stands in either Manhassets or CSHs way in the Class C Long Island championship.
Homer, near Cortland, has already defeated JD this season, handily I might add, 15-10.
There you have it. Im sure many will take exception to a lot of what Ive laid out there, but thats what this site is for constructive debate. Its my hope I spend the spring shuffling back and forth over the Throgs Neck and Whitestone bridges. Im sure Ill see great lacrosse along the way.
Let the ‘Cuse bashing begin.
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