Terence Pfeifer, right, and Hicksville will face West Islip
in Tuesday’s Class A Long Island championship game.
Simply put, any of the three Long Island championship games are almost as big as a state final. This year will be no exception as six schools have emerged from the regular season and sectional wars to get to Stony Brook University for Tuesday’s state quarterfinal tripleheader. The winners advance to Thursday’s downstate semifinals at Middletown High School.
Three of these teams are household names, with two of them the odds-on favorites to win state titles. The third is looking to repeat as champion. Another is a legendary program trying to win its first state crown since 2000.
Then there are two teams looking to become that next great Long Island program to shock the New York lacrosse world. We’ve seen it before on the Island. Without fail someone invariably comes out of seemingly nowhere to survive and advance.
Tuesday’s outcomes will mark yet another chapter in the glorious history of Long Island lacrosse. All that’s left to do is to play the games, so with that I give you a brief synopsis of what to expect at Stony Brook.
West Islip (19-1) vs. Hicksville (16-3), 5:30 p.m.
Last year Syosset ended a long string of Section 11 dominance in this game, but fell short in the state final against West Genny, continuing a long trend of Section 8 futility as far as state championships go. The last Class A team from Nassau County to win the whole thing was Garden City in 1986. Since then, Section 11 has won 10 titles.
Hicksville will be trying to end all that. The Comets beat Syosset in the Section 8 semifinals and then dispatched of Baldwin, 7-6, in the final.
But the idea of beating West Islip is something else entirely.
The Lions are led by arguably the nation’s best attackman, Nicky Galasso. The University of North Carolina-bound junior scored three goals, including one in the final seconds of the first half, catapulting West Islip to a 9-5 win over rival Ward Melville on Thursday in the Section 11 final, avenging the Lions’ lone loss of the season.
Galasso is a one-man wrecking crew, but with the type of talent West Islip has in supporting roles, it is the clear favorite to win this game, beat whomever in the state semifinals and then try for a third state title (all coming since 2006) on Saturday at Paetec Park in Rochester.
Galasso is as balanced an offensive star as any you’ll ever see, as he has amassed 59 goals and 59 assists. He’s a matchup nightmare 6-on-6 and basically unstoppable on man-up.
But he’s hardly acting alone.
The Lions have offense all over the place. Bryan Badalato has 47 goals, Shane Craig (the son of coach Scott Craig) has 31 goals and 22 assists, Andrew Hodgson has 46 points, including four goals in the win over Ward Melville, and Ian Braddish (18, 26) may be the best all-around middie on the Island. Braddish, like Galasso, is bound for UNC.
Often overlooked because of the team’s offensive firepower, West Islip’s defense is allowing just 4.4 goals per game, including two shutouts. The Lions have not given up more than 8 goals in any game this season.
Hicksville’s balanced offense is led by Joe Leonard (32, 27), Brandon Gamblin (31, 19), Sal Geneva (22, 13), Pete Alfieri (25, 9) and Ernestas Steponas (22, 10). The Comets are no strangers to tight games, having won five one-goal contests this year.
Common opponents: Massapequa. West Islip won 14-7 on April 3; Hicksville lost 9-6 on May 8.
Prediction: West Islip 13, Hicksville 6
Garden City (17-3) vs. Sayville (14-5), 8 p.m.
These teams have never met. Garden City is no stranger to this game, but has not won a state championship since capturing the program’s fourth back in 2000. Sayville is venturing into foreign territory having advanced this far. But what makes the Golden Flashes a viable opponent is the fact that they survived the Section 11 tournament, featuring the likes of Shoreham-Wading River, Comsewogue and Smithtown West, among others.
Garden City’s offensive struggles this season have been well documented, but it is coming off easily its best effort of the season, an 11-4 win over rival Lynbrook in the Section 8 final on Wednesday. Since an 8-2 loss to Manhasset in the Woodstick Classic on April 25, the Trojans have been one of the hottest teams on Long Island, winning nine straight and outscoring their opponents 97-34.
Defense has been Garden City’s calling card all season. Longpole Reid Rosello has anchored a smothering unit that has allowed just 83 goals, or 4 and change per game. The Trojans employ a two-man unit in goal, with Chris Connors and Brendan Engelke each showing they have No. 1 netminder abilities. Don’t be surprised if both play against Sayville.
The entire Garden City defensive unit will be up against it vs. Sayville. The Golden Flashes have five legitimate offensive threats, led by Dillon Boos (50, 10). In Sayville’s 11-9 win over Smithtown West in Section 11 final, Doug Meehan (25, 12) and Dan Mellynchuk (28, 29) went off, combining for seven goals and an assist, including each scoring late to seal the victory.
The key for Garden City will be carrying over the momentum from the Lynbrook win and hoping that its newfound offensive fortunes continue. Albany-bound attackman Will Fuller (35, 24) has been a marked man, but he had his moments against Lynbrook, a fine defensive team in its own right, going 1 and 3. Mike Lind set the tone with three goals in the first quarter and the Trojans were never challenged.
Also keep an eye on the Dwyer brothers. Freshman attackman Devin (23, 29) has been outstanding and Conor (19, 1) is a crease target that cannot be left unguarded.
Common opponents: Ward Melville, Smithtown West. Garden City defeated Ward Melville, 7-6, on April 8 and beat Smithtown West, 12-4, on April 1; Sayville lost to Ward Melville, 9-5, on April 1 and split with Smithtown West, losing 9-8 on April 23 and winning 11-9 on Thursday.
Prediction: Garden City 7, Sayville 5
Manhasset (17-1) vs. Mount Sinai (12-6), 3:30 p.m.
With all the hype surrounding Manhasset, the No. 1 team in the most recent LaxLessons Regional Top 25 regional rankings, what’s lost on many is the fact that Mount Sinai and not Manhasset is the defending Class C state champion.
It’s just difficult to imagine a scenario where Manhasset’s Connor English is denied a final shot at an elusive state championship. Manhasset has won two state titles (Class C in 2004 and Class B in 1995), but has often come up mighty small in the state tournament. English and a bevy of talented Indians on offense seem destined to get another shot this Saturday in Rochester.
Everything that can be said about Virginia-bound English has been said. The senior attackman has 65 goals and 16 assists, including scoring three times in a 7-5 win over Cold Spring Harbor on Thursday in the Section 8 championship game. He’s exorcised seemingly every demon in his path this season, most notably playing a huge role in Manhasset ending a long run of futility against archrival Garden City in the Woodstick Classic.
In addition, he was just named Nassau County player of the year. (For a look at all the Nassau player of the year awards, click here.)
The only thing he’s missing is a win in his final game of a season.
English’s aspirations aside, Manhasset is loaded. Whether it’s fellow attackman Zac Koufakis (22, 22), middie Jeff Molinari (23, 11) or do-everything middie Drew Belinsky, the Indians have what it takes to move on regardless if English, in the unlikely event, is shut down.
That said, though, if there’s one thing that’s been proven over the last 30 years, it’s never count out a Joe Cuozzo-coached team. He won seven state titles at Ward Melville and then last year, his first at Mount Sinai, ended Cold Spring Harbor’s two-year run atop the state in this very game before completing the magical run to the school’s first state title with a convincing 10-5 win over Corning East.
The Mustangs advanced to this year’s Island title game with an 11-8 win over John Glenn-Elwood on Thursday.
Mount Sinai has been led all season by Jonathan Hoeg. The senior attackman will carry his 25 goals and 37 assists into a likely one-on-one showdown with Manhasset close defenseman Brad Cappellini, the Nassau defenseman of the year. At midfield, an intriguing matchup is possible between the Mustangs’ Shane Henry (31, 13) and Indians LSM extraordinaire John Duvnjak.
Another interesting pairing could be Manhasset longpoles Matt Rubertone and Kevin Coleman trying to deny Mount Sinai junior Ray Diaz (26, 3).
Cold Spring Harbor looked dead Thursday before rallying to give Manhasset a scare. The thought is Mount Sinai cannot afford to fall behind big early. If the Mustangs do, English and Co. could cruise.
Common opponents: Sayville, Comsewogue. Manhasset beat Sayville, 12-4, on March 25; Mount Sinai lost to Sayville, 6-1, on May 19. Manhasset lost to Comsewogue, 11-10 in OT, on April 7; Mount Sinai lost to Comsewogue, 7-4, on May 2.
Prediction: Manhasset 12, Mount Sinai 6
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