West Islip’s Nicky Galasso, shown in action at left last night
against Hicksville, scored five goals to match his jersey number.
Yorktown and West Islip both suffered crushing losses to Syosset in last year’s playoffs. Now, they’re each within a game of playing for a state title.
Connor English of Manhasset has enjoyed one of the most storied careers of any high school player this decade. Can he end it with a state title?
And how about Class B, where two teams Niskayuna and Sayville who were relative unknowns at the outset of this decade are now on the brink of a state championship.
Before we preview and predict the games, let’s check out Thursday’s state semifinal schedules for Middletown and Rochester:
Games at Middletown High School
Class C – 3:30 p.m.
Manhasset (Section 8 ) vs. Putnam Valley (Section 1)
Class A – 5:30 p.m.
West Islip (Section 11) vs. Yorktown (Section 1)
Class B – 8 p.m.
Sayville (Section 8 ) vs. Niskayuna (Section 2)
Directions to Middletown High School:
Central/Western New York semifinals
Games at St. John Fisher College in Rochester
Ithaca vs. Orchard Park, 5:30 p.m.
Jamesville-DeWitt vs. Canandaigua, 8 p.m.
LaFayette vs. Penn Yan, 3:30 p.m.
Previewing the downstate semifinals
Three things to watch
Remember Syosset: Both West Islip and Yorktown do. Last year, West Islip fell to the Braves in the Long Island championship game, and then Yorktown dropped a heartbreak to Syosset in the state semifinals. Both the Lions and ‘Huskers have pointed to those games as motivating forces for them this season. One of those teams will bounce back by advancing to this year’s state finals.
Sayville … Say what?: Few would have projected the Golden Flashes would be Long Island’s representative in the state semifinals. After all, Sayville had never won a Suffolk championship prior to this season and then it trailed Nassau champ Garden City by four goals in tonight’s championship game. But every year, it seems, a surprise team emerges from the Island, showing the depth and parity of Long Island lax. This year, that team is Sayville.
Speaking English: Manhasset’s Connor English, the University of Virginia-bound star attackman, is as accomplished a player as there is in the country. But he has yet to win a state title. This season, he’s been on a mission to do precisely that namely to give the Indians what would be their third state crown overall and first since 2004.
Class A – West Islip vs. Yorktown: This game takes on added importance since many will view it as the de facto state championship game in light of West Genesee’s stunning quarterfinal-round loss to Ithaca.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Why would we? After all, this is one of the best and most eagerly awaited state semifinal games in years.
Both teams fell to Ward Melville, but other than that, their respective résumés are pretty impressive. (Save a loss to Wilton in Yorktown’s final regular-season game.)
And the stars will be shinining here Thursday. Yorktown has a pair of Hopkins-bound scoring machines senior midfielder John Ranagan and junior attackman Kevin Interlicchio as well as two fellow all-Americans on defense in John Fennessy (Towson) and Ethan Fox (Marist) and a four-year starter in goal in Michael Bonitatibus.
The Lions are equally loaded. After all, they have arguably the nation’s best player in North Carolina-bound junior attackman Nicky Galasso along with fellow UNC recruit Ian Braddish, a midfielder, and four other D-I recruits.
If you’re a HS lax fan anywhere within driving distance, you don’t miss this one.
Prediction: West Islip 10, Yorktown 9 (OT)
Class B – Sayville vs. Niskayuna: Both these programs are relative upstarts on the statewide scene when compared to the Yorktowns and Manhassets of the world. After all, Sayville has fielded a varsity program just nine years. Niskayuna, though now nationally renowned, was a relative unknown at the outset of this decade.
What does all this mean? They’re both pretty hungry and pretty eager to win a first-ever state championship in a year in which the title appears to be there for the taking.
Nisky coach Mike Vorgang is a defensive guru who runs suffocating schemes that shut down high-powered offenses. The Silver Warriors run a patient offense that is led by senior midfielders Dan McKinney and Jared Franze. McKinney is bound for Georgetown. Franze is headed to Hartford. RPI-bound goalie James Manchester anchors the defense.
Though Sayville may not have any Divison I-bound recruits, it has excellent team chemistry and some outstanding athletes. Case in point Dillon Boos, who was a standout quarterback for the Golden Flashes.
Prediction: Niskayuna 9, Sayville 7
Class C – Manhasset vs. Putnam Valley: Like Sayville, Put Valley has no D-I recruits. But the Tigers are a senior-laden team that plays extremely well together, led by all-American midfielder Jimmy van de Veeerdonk, Dillon Chesnut (who scored his 100th career goal against Rye in the sectional final) and attackman Kyle Calabro.
English gets most of the attention, but the Indians have plenty of talent at other spots, especially on defense, where Harvard-bound Brad Cappellini was named Nassau County defenseman of the year. Attackman/midfielder Kevin Heenan is headed to Penn, defenseman Matt Rubertone is bound for Fairfield, and the Indians have an astonishing nine other players bound for premier D-III programs, including Amherst and Middlebury.
Prediction: Manhasset 12, Putnam Valley 5
Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts and predictions.
Reach Joe Lombardi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yorktown, which rallied to beat Lakeland/Panas in the sectional final before defeaing Guilderland, hopes to continue that momentum against West Islip.
(Photo by Ray Gallagher)