Top photo: Manhasset senior captain John Duvnjak celebrates the Indians’ 8-2 win over Garden City in the Woodstick Classic. Above photo: Matt Rubertone of Manhasset chases after Garden City’s Will Fuller. (Photo by newsphoto.com. For a gallery of photos from the game, click here.)
In all the years Manhasset and Garden City have strapped on the equipment and taken the field, only once has one side failed to score a goal. It happened in the first meeting between the schools way back in 1935 and the Trojans were on the losing end.
But for roughly 40 minutes on Saturday, some seven-plus decades later, it looked like history was going to repeat itself. Manhasset’s execution during the 118th Woodstick Classic was that good, much to the delight of the majority of the 2,000 or so in attendance at Ed Walsh Field.
The Indians settled for an eventual 8-2 victory, but it was clear to most everyone there the Trojans were doomed from the start.
“We watched a lot of film on Garden City,” middie Drew Belinsky said. “And we knew if we executed we’d be better than them today.”
The Indians did and certainly were.
Manhasset (9-1), the No. 3 team in this week’s LaxLessons Top 25 regional rankings, showed why it is now the clear-cut favorite to get off Long Island and at least get to Paetec Park in Rochester, site of this year’s state championship game, in June. The victory also extended Manhasset’s all-time lead in the series, the longest running boys lacrosse rivalry in the nation, to 65-53, and ended Garden City’s run of four straight wins and 11 in the previous 12 years.
“I am very pleased,” Manhasset coach Bill Cherry said. “We played as a unit — from our goalie to close defense to midfield and all the way out.”
The score was just 3-0 at the half, but it sure felt like a larger spread.
“Manhasset played a complete game on both defense and offense,” Garden City coach Steve Finnell said. “They won the groundball battle and they shot the ball exceptionally well. Obviously we needed a great effort to win this game and we’re disappointed we didn’t get it.”
As expected Connor English did what he always seems to do — score and score some more. The University of Virginia-bound attackman finished with four goals, including three in the second half to help put the game away, and now has 37, to go along with 48 points, in 10 games.
“It’s crazy the things Connor can do with a lacrosse ball,” Belinsky said.
To which Finnell added, “Connor is a great player, outstanding. And he’s doing what all great players do, he’s playing his best lacrosse during his senior year.”
As great as English was shooting on the run, dodging through multiple defenders and finishing on the break, Belinsky was equally good doing all the things that will never show up on Internet blogs or in the newspapers. The junior middie (committed to UPenn) was a one-man human ride. He frustrated the Garden City middies by owning the center of the field. He got seemingly every groundball and always seemed to be running unabated after catching a clearing pass.
“Drew is a tremendous in-between the lines player,” English said. “He does it all for us.”
The main reason why Manhasset’s three-goal halftime lead wasn’t bigger was due to the outstanding play of Garden City goalie Chris Connors. He made just five saves, but each was a highlight reel effort.
But sticking to his usual gameplan, Finnell opted for fellow senior Brendan Engelke between the pipes in the second half. The Trojans (8-3, ranked 8th in the latest LaxLesson Top 25) quickly fell behind 6-0 on unassisted goals by English, Kevin Heenan and Zac Koufakis during a two-minute run. But in fairness to Engelke and Finnell each score was a thing of beauty and there is likely not a goalie alive who would have fared any better.
Vin Chiodo, who will play next year at Marist, finally got Garden City on the board with a man-up goal at 4:18 of the fourth. The last time Garden City was shut out by anyone came on April 9, 1957, in a 17-0 loss to Sewanhaka, a school that was in the midst of winning 91 straight games, a national record it shares with West Genesee to this day.
Part of the reason why Garden City, which has struggled at times this season to score goals, couldn’t get anything going on this night was the play of the Manhasset close defense unit of Bradley Cappellini, Matt Rubertone and Kevin Coleman, which limited Garden City’s top offensive threat, Will Fuller (Albany), to just an assist.
That said, the poles weren’t the only defensive stars. Manhasset got timely saves from goalie Jack Meyer and unexpected offense from longstick middie John Duvnjack, who scored the game’s second goal after causing havoc just outside the Garden City crease.
“This was easily our best effort of the season,” English said after he and his teammates hoisted the Woodstick trophy. “It shows what we can do when we prepare properly in practice and then bring it out on the field. Our defense was great, our middies were great. And we stuck shots when we had opportunities.”
English capped off his memorable game with a pair of unassisted goals midway through the fourth. After that, the only thing left for him to do was to smile and work on his cliches for the MSG cameras.
“It’s the best feeling ever to win this game and take the trophy back to Manhasset,” English said.
Posted In: Long Island lacrosse