Sophomore attackman Brian Coleman and the Garden City Trojans have dominated recent meetings in the Woodstick Classic. (Photo by Jim Stout/MaxPreps.com)
On the surface, it would appear that Connor English has accomplished just about everything during his storied career at Manhasset.
He is regarded as one of the finest attackmen in the nation, and hell take his skills to the University of Virginia next season.
But if you look a little deeper, there are two glaring omissions from his incredible résumé a state championship and a win over Garden City in the fabled Woodstick Classic, the longest running continuous boys high school lacrosse rivalry in the nation.
Being able to play in this type of game is probably the most exciting thing that I have ever felt in high school lacrosse, English said. If you look at all the great players that have been involved through history, you just want to bring a win back to your town. Every year its a tough challenge against Garden City. Hopefully we can bring a win back to Manhasset.
If things go according to plan, Manhasset could get a shot at its first state title since 2004 once things get serious in June. The Indians are currently ranked No. 3 in the latest LaxLessons.com Top 25 regional rankings and No. 2 in Class C in the latest New York State Sports Writers Association poll.
Obviously a lot has to happen the rest of the way for Manhasset to get a shot at the third state crown in school history, but English and Co. have more immediate concerns.
Despite dominating the early and middle years of the Woodstick Classic, Manhasset has had no answer for Garden City over the last decade-plus. The Trojans have won 11 of the last 12 meetings, including a 9-5 victory last year at Garden City, and now trail 64-52 in a series that dates to 1935.
If you look at the history, teams have gone on runs. Were on a run now. They went on one a while back. It will be very tough. They are an outstanding team, Garden City coach Steve Finnell said.
In recent years crowds of more than 2,000 have been the norm for the Woodstick, and games have been highly competitive. Twelve of the last 17 contests have been decided by two goals or less, with three needing overtime.
Its electric. The stands are filled with returning players, stars in college, parents, coaches from all over county, Section 1 and upstate. Its an event, Manhasset coach Bill Cherry said.
This 118th edition of the Woodstick Classic is just part of a planned all-day lacrosse celebration. This years festivities are sponsored by the Indians Rock Community Foundation, a 501c3 charitable organization. The days schedule includes five games, including youth matchups, Manhasset-Garden City JV, Manhasset-St. Anthonys girls varsity, a Manhasset legends game and a 4:30 p.m. boys game between Cold Spring Harbor and Seaford.
The Woodstick Classic will also feature other lacrosse-related activities, plus raffles, a food court, vendors and fireworks.
Its about two communities, very similar communities, Cherry said. The players, coaches all know each other. Its about bragging rights. Weve both had outstanding teams. Its a great matchup filled with excitement. Its the game circled on calendars no matter what the teams records are.
To which Finnell added: The kids all know each other very well. I graduated from Garden City in 91, played in five games against Manhasset. Its a friendly rivalry. What goes on on the field, stays on field. You have two teams that respect each other a great deal. The games are tough, by the rules, incredibly intense. Its like playing in a county championship game.
That leads us back to Saturday. Can the Indians take back the momentum in the series? Or will the Trojans continue their dominance?
Manhasset (8-1) comes in having won four straight since an 11-10 overtime loss to Comsewogue on April 7, including a 14-13 win over Darien in the opener of the Battle of the Sound doubleheader on April 11.
English has done what has been expected and thensome, registering 44 points in nine games, including 33 goals.
I had Ryan Young, Danny Denihan. You expect players like that to come up big. Garden City will shut off, play zone against Connor. Hopefully we coach well enough to get him free. He has done everything – drawn slides and dished, beaten slides to score. Hes strong, quick and just a great, great player, Cherry said.
Jeff Molinari (15, 6) and Zac Koufakis (9, 11) have provided Manhasset with needed support and have helped balance out an offense that could easily be mistaken as a one-man show.
Cherry said the secret to his teams success this season is about as basic as it gets.
I really think its because they are all friends, Cherry said. They have fun in practice, fun hanging out together. Its just a great atmosphere. These kids have been together since PAL. Its their time to make a special memory.
“This season has surpassed any expectations I had,” he said. “We have just come together as a team with an incredible bond.”
Garden City (8-2) is probably one of the hottest teams in the LaxLessons region, having won eight in a row prior to its 7-5 loss to MIAA power St. Pauls last Saturday. Currently ranked No. 8 in the LaxLessons.com Top 25 and No. 4 in the state in Class B, the Trojans have played a very competitive schedule, taking on and beating South Side, Ward Melville, New Canaan and Lynbrook before losing to St. Pauls.
Were just getting better every game. We were down late against Ward Melville, but to come back and get two goals late to win showed a lot of character. I think that helped us realize that we can be very good, Finnell said.
I feel very confident that our kids will be in every game. St. Pauls had outstanding kids at every position. We did a nice job trying to control them. Defense is the strength of our team. We have five very good poles and two senior goalies who are getting the job done.”
Will Fuller (bound for the University at Albany) leads the Trojans in scoring with 14 goals and seven assists, followed by freshman attackman Devin Dwyer (8, 8) and senior middie Vin Chiodo (9, 5). Senior attackman Conor Dwyer has 11 goals.
So much for all the talk about Finnells team rebuilding.
One month from the time we played Syosset to when we took on St. Pauls we played 10 games. A lot has changed. A lot of our guys without experience have stepped up. Theyve done a great job, Finnell said.
So we’re ready for the tri-state areas marquee game of the week – two friendly rivals playing a beautiful game the way its supposed to be played, in front of an adoring public.
Does it get any better?
Its a great example of high school lacrosse and how it should be played. Fans I think appreciate the level of lacrosse played. Its contagious, Cherry said.
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