Wait, What!? No Returning Champions
Skunked Last Year, Local Laxers Seek to Restore Order in 2019
The emperors have been dethroned for just the fourth time since 1997, but will YORKTOWN – the kings of the Section 1 lax circuit – remain in exile or will they take this John Jay-induced abdication to heart and restore Class B order in the spring 2019? That is one of many queries local lax junkies are seeking answers to as a new era begins for Yorktown’s old guard.
“We’re looking to find out who this team will be,” said third-year Yorktown Coach Sean Carney (32-8), who has been with the program for 19 seasons in one capacity or another. “Last year, we graduated a great group of seniors who had been through state playoffs, and now we will look to try to regain what our program strives for – championships – without them. It’s a new year and a new opportunity with many challenges along the way. It’s exciting, but every facet of our game needs to get better to get where we want to be come playoff time.”
The 40-time Section 1 champion Cornhuskers – the 2017 NYS runner-ups and owners of seven NYS titles — will enter the season as second fiddle for just the fourth time in the last 22 years (1997, 2006, 2010, 2018). In fact, Yorktown is 35-4 in its Section 1 title quests since 1980, so it’s no wonder they expect to be on top. Getting there this year is no guarantee, despite the fact that John Jay – who defeated Yorktown for the title for the second time since 2006 – has lost a ton of talent as well.
Both Yorktown and Jay were senior-laden clubs last year, so the outfit that finds itself stocked with the most returning talent and additional key newcomers should be the team to prevail, but either way it’s likely to come down to these two once again for Class B supremacy.
For the first time since 1979 we don’t have a reigning sectional in our midst in any classification; our hub being Yorktown, Lakeland/Panas, Mahopac, Somers and Putnam Valley. Was this an aberration or something we need to get used to in this neck of the woods? Because, truth be told, 2019 is looking equally difficult according the prospects we see.
Yorktown (15-3) will put itself to the test right out of the gate in a season-opening tilt with Class A champion Mamaroneck, which could pose as an eye-opening test right out of the gate, much like the rest of the Yorktown schedule.
Top Returning Attack: Senior Shane Dahlke is the go-to guy, having served as a complimentary figure to the Embury brothers the past two years. Junior Alex Debenedictis showed big-time promise last year. Seniors Reese Andrews and Joe Atherall will have to pay the piper now; it’s their turn to do so.
Top Returning Mids: Senior Keegan Doller, senior Brendan Williams (one of the area’s top face-off men), junior Tim O’Callaghan, sophomore Blake Borges, senior Matt Finnegan, senior Dante Esposito, senior Vin Dinotte and senior Alex Fraioli will determine whether this team gets back on top or not with steady two-way run and possession.
Top Returning Poles: The unit is essentially green with seniors Chris Perrino, Naim Sinanaj and Nick Gibson joining freshman Matt Regan and junior Eddie Capone; with sophomore Keith Boyer anchoring a mostly untested but effective unit. Boyer, a co-captain, is the truth, though; we’re suggesting other methods to beat the Huskers. Plus, Regan would be up on varsity if his future wasn’t entirely bright.
Goalie: Senior Dan O’ Meara is the starter but sophomore Adam Norris is going to be a good one down the road.
Key Newcomers: Yorktown was counting on freshman A Harry Griff to provide a once-in-a-generation-type impact player this season, but a back injury has his rookie-season status in question. We’re talking about a right-handed attackmen who cranks with both hands and could become a four-time All-Section player and potential All-American if he can get back up to speed. The comparisons to former All-Americans Nick Mariano and Brian Crockett are out there, but there could be a prolonged recovery period for Griff, which truly saddens genuine Section 1 lax junkies who were hoping for their first peep this spring.
“We have many talented new kids challenging for playing time,” Carney said.
Truth be told, though, Griff does things others can’t. He’s special and, with any luck, he’ll be heard from sooner rather than later.
Circle the Date: They ran out of ink; Murphy Cup vs. Lakeland/Panas, John Jay, Darien, Ridgefield, Wilton, Chaminade, St Anthony’s, Mercer Island, Washington are all on the docket, among the most challenging schedules in the nation year after year after year. It’s what prepares the 40-time sectional champion Huskers for their annual run at the state tournament, having competed in every sectional championship since 1979.
“Our goals are the same each year, we have to work to meet these high expectations,” Carney said of the sectional title. The kids are working hard and buy in to what we expect out of them as a staff. Our senior leaders are holding each other accountable on and off the field. We are not the returning section champs this year, so we will have to fight to earn that back.”
BREWSTER is in the throes of a rebuild with a ton of young players working their way through the pipeline. Coach Mike Honey’s Bears are not in the hunt for the Class B crown this spring, but hope to build for the future with a strong foundational year in what most consider the toughest league in the section.
“We’re still a very young team with only five seniors,” Honey said.
Top Returning Attack: Attack is a senior heavy position with Bobby Conklin and Pat Feehan returning from last year and Cole Gianguzzi joining them coming off an injury his junior year.
Top Returning Mids: Midfield is led by Captain Charlie Russell and a large supporting class. Juniors RJ Hargrave, Danny Buonadonna, Sophomore Aidan Sheil and Freshmen Ethan Hamm balance out the midfield. Will be a group that rotates a lot of players.
Top Returning Poles: The strength of the team is in its defense with sophomores Franco Milano, Jason Borsari, plus juniors Teddy Tepper, Malcolm Nordquist and Sam Lowe.
Goalie: Returning as a starter between the pipes is sophomore Billy Finn.
“We play a very tough schedule in an incredibly tough league; John Jay, Yorktown, Somers and Fox Lane are all league games,” Coach Honey said. “We have a lot of returning players from last year but they are still young. Offense will have to score goals by committee and hopefully the defense will keep us in games.”
If consistency matters, then LAKELAND/PANAS takes top prize dating back to 1989 when it comes to Class A lax. No Class A program has won more sectional titles (10 in Class A) or competed in more championship games (23) than the Hornets/Rebels since the ’89 season. Whether Lakeland was alone, or combined with Panas, the program has remained as relevant as any program in Section 1 not named Yorktown. Since 2007, L/P has won four sectional crowns and competed for all but three of the last 12 title tilts.
Rebel Coach Jim Lindsay, now in his 14th season, doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves, and despite going through an 8-11 season he still had the Rebels challenging for the title last year. L/P was knocked off in unceremonious fashion as Mamaroneck pulled away in the second half to win by a comfortable margin, but the fact that they were right there with Mamo’ was considered by most to be Lindsay’s finest hour as a coach.
Hit hard by graduation in 2018, the youthful Rebels return a year the wiser, ready to contend with Mahopac for league bragging rights before setting their sights on a loaded Mamaroneck squad yet again.
Top Returning Attack: Seniors Mason Nocito, Alex Davoli and Tom Nolan were prime contributors last season and have shown tremendous off-season improvement.
Top Returning Mids: The Rebels are stacked here: Senior Sean Laukaitis, senior TJ Bryan, senior Phil Dellamonica and junior Matt Makar comprise a tough, battle-tested unit. Bryan is among the section’s premier face-off men when healthy, and all four can crank.
Top Returning Poles: The Rebels have taken a hit here but junior Ryan Brannigan and senior Josh Hirsch will be among the main trio.
Goalie: JP Walsh, a grizzled senior leader, is a stout last line of defense and fun in transition. Crisp outlets and the ability to transition on his own are key attributes.
Key Newcomers: Watch for juniors Michael Walsh and Michael Castelli and sophomores Reed Thompson and Mark Cummins, who are impactful rookies.
Circle the Date: May 3rd, Murphy Cup vs. Yorktown.
“Our realistic goals are the same every year: Compete for a sectional title, attempt to win the Murphy Cup,” Lindsay said. “We have great senior leadership working with us but our chemistry is something to work on. That senior leadership will be tested against a challenging schedule and many strong Class A programs.”
L/P open the season at Suffern on March 28th (5:00 p.m.) and gets its first peep at visiting Mamaroneck on April 9th (4:30 p.m.). The league title should/could come down to an April 25th encounter with host Mahopac.
If defense wins championships, MAHOPAC will be zeroing in one, or at least challenging for their first sectional title since 2011. The fact that Mahopac, once a regular title contender, has copped just two sectional titles since 2004, is quite surprising, seeing how the Indians had won eight between 1992 and 2004, appearing in 13 title games overall from 1989-2005.
Indian Coach Joe Bucello (12-6, 2nd season) knows full well the history of Mahopac lax, having played goalie at neighboring Yorktown, a perennial thorn in Mahopac’s side. Bucello guided the Indians to the Class A semis last year when they were eliminated by Lakeland/Panas, and he figures to have enough for a similar showing this season, but the Indians are never about Final 4’s, or at least they didn’t used to be.
With seven starters returning, it is imperative the Indians get back to the title game and give Mamaroneck all it can handle, though Lakeland/Panas fancies a similar outcome. Back in the day, Mahopac and Lakeland met traditionally for the title (10 times between 1989 and 2004 with Mahopac going 8-2), but the game has grown regionally and Mamaroneck has joined the Class A fray as a legitimate threat each and every year, and Dutchess County – Wappingers and Arlington — is closing the gap, too. Mamaroneck has now copped four of the last seven crowns and figure to be the favorites in 2019.
Top Returning Attack: Senior Anthony Corrado, who can’t settle for nothing less than being a primary finisher, is legit. Senior Ryan Moloney and junior Matt Riley round out the largely untested attack.
Top Returning Mids: Athletic and capable of pulling their weight, the unit includes seniors Andrew Riolo and Nicholas Padovani, plus juniors Tommy Elliott, Zach Esteves and Jack Carey. Elliot showed a ton of promise as a rookie and will be heavily relied upon this season along with key newcomers Andrew Dazi (M), Tommy O’Brien (A) and Kennedy transfer Hunter Trippono, all juniors.
Top Returning Poles: The 2019 unit has some holes to fill on attack and midfield but the entire Mahopac defense will be back in action this spring, including senior poles Zachary Puckhaber (Gettysburg), John Dundon, Timothy Cegielski and juniors Mike Kertelits, Adien Martin and Ian Hamilton.
Goalie: Pace-bound senior Mike Argila is as athletic as any netminder in the section, and few in the section can stuff shots and get in transition as well as he does. Argila will keep the Indians afloat more often than not.
Circle the date: The Indians have circled May 23rd on their calendar, the start of the 2019 playoffs. Since the coach didn’t list an opponent, we’ll go with April 27th vs. Mamaroneck. It’s offense vs. defense, and oftentimes a bigtime offense prevails in lax, but here’s your barometer, boys.
“A realistic goal would be the 10th section championship in Mahopac history,” Coach Bucello admitted. “We have experience, chemistry and belief on our side, but we need to do a better job at doing all the little things.”
Sectional runner-up Lakeland/Panas is considered the co-favorites in the league and Mamaroneck, is being bandied about as sectional favorites. The Tigers return a ton of explosive talent. The road to the title will be paved through Mamaroneck, according to most coaches.
“We have big goals and a plan to achieve them,” Bucello said. “We believe in our plan and we all can see ourselves achieving our goals.”
The Indians open up at home against Westlake on March 21st (4:45 p.m.) and they will get the first of two potential looks at visiting Mamaroneck on April 27th in what will surely be a telling tale.
CARMEL Coach Matt Caione (5-12) enters his second season as the Rams’ head coach, but has been around the program for half a decade preaching the Yorktown way. The former Husker and Syracuse All-American is hoping to rub off on the Rams, but the culture shift has taken longer than expected at Carmel, which has never been considered a “lax school”.
The Rams were ousted in the opening round of sectionals and have yet to win a playoff game, but the current unit is doing their best to change that.
Top Returning Attack: Aidan Babnik and Matt LaFontaine are veterans who can fill the net.
Top Returning Mids: Will Boalt and Ryan Taormina are given, but like the attack unit there’s a hole to fill.
Top Returning Poles: Tyler Allocca, Michael Storen and Mack Hedman form the unit in front of a rookie goalie.
Goalie: Junior Donald Burke should get the nod
Key Newcomers: middies Colby Opromolla and Ryan McDonald will get instant run after serving as primary junior varsity scoring options.
Circle the Date: May 9th vs. Ossining.
“Our realistic goal is to compete every time we step on the field,” Caione said. “We hustle, but need work on our overall skills and decision making.”
The league favorite is Lakeland/Panas, and the Rams will be hard-pressed to challenge for bragging rights, but Caione hopes his team plays fast and loose.
“If you’re going to make a mistake, make it going 100 miles an hour,” he said.
The Rams will open with neighboring rival Brewster on March 21st.
HEN HUD had higher hopes than the one they went out on last year. 2018 was supposed to be the year the Sailors hoisted the first sectional title plaque in school history. Instead, the Sailors found themselves on the shy side of a 12-7 semifinal setback to Pelham, who eventually copped its first ever sectional title.
Seeded No.1 going in, Hen Hud (16-2) saw the Pelicans do what no Pelham team has ever done before, but is widely expected to do again as the Class C favorites in 2019. Runner-up Rye is still a legit threat and should also be there in the end.
Third-year Hen Hud Coach Troy Lepore (23-12) has lost quite a bit of talent from last season on both ends of the field but he returns enough to remain competitive and, quite possibly, return for another Final 4 run at the very least.
Top Returning Attack: The duo of All-Section seniors Max Popolizio (105 points) and Stony Brook-bound Connor Gallagher (70 points) will continue to fill the nets.
Top Returning Mids: This is an area of concern after the Sailor midfield was hit hard by graduation, but Oneonta-bound senior Bryce Caffrey (40 points) returns with HM All-Section status.
Top Returning Poles: Again, the Sailors are decimated by graduation on close defense, but All-League sophomore Chris Connolly returns.
Goalie: Vinny Bell’s former position is up for grabs between Kennedy transfer Sean Carroll, a sophomore, and freshman Rowan Caffrey.
Key Newcomers: Lepore is expecting a lot from sophomore A Jack Kapfer and junior D Harley Zern.
Circle the Date: Palmisano Night/Senior Night May 4th 7pm vs. Put Valley should be a doozy.
“Right now, our realistic goals are to get better with every day of practice and hit our stride in late April, early May heading into sectionals,” Lepore said. “We have three experienced and talented senior leaders on the offensive side as a strength of ours. We need to hold ourselves accountable on and off the field and doing the little things that make a big difference.”
There are very few cupcakes on the schedule, but the league is very winnable with Sleepy Hollow, Nanuet, Lourdes and Pearl River serving as minor obstacles to a league title, but the schedule is loaded at both the front and back end with Pelham hosting the Sailors on April 2nd and Rye hosting Hen Hud in early May. The Sailors will also visit reigning NYS Class D champion Pleasantville and host Put Valley that same week with Rye, so they will know where they stand come tournament time.
“We’ve all been around long enough to know its doing the little things that separate teams and programs,” Lepore said. “We want to hit our stride on the field around sectionals and be playing great team defense and selfless lacrosse. We’re looking forward to a more competitive schedule with some new teams added.”
The Sailors open at Class A Scarsdale on March 23rd (10 a.m.).
There are no Ryan Fitzgeralds or Jimmy van de Veerdonks or Joey Morgans on the current PUTNAM VALLEY squad… no Kyle Calabros or Mike and Steve Ammanns; players who previously led the Tigers to three Section 1 championships between 2004-2010 and six sectional title appearances in those seven years. In fact, the Tigers haven’t had so much as a sniff at a title appearance since their last regional championship at Middletown’s Faller Field in 2010.
Four-time sectional champion Bronxville and three-time champ Pleasantville assumed control of Class C through 2017, before Section 1 reclassified and sent the trio down to Class D where Pleasantville notched its fourth-straight title last season, defeating Westlake. And Pleasantville is once again believed to be the class of Class D as Put Valley hopes to end its eight-year championship drought.
Third-year PV Coach Tim Weir has been around the block a time or two, compiling a 170-57 overall record at places like Lakeland/Panas and Scarsdale, and he guided the Tigers to a respectable 12-7 mark last season when PV beat Hastings in the opening round of sectionals before falling to Bronxville, 12-7, in the quarters. It was another in a series of also-ran seasons for a small-school program with as much history as any in the section. However, those days seem long gone, so it’s time to put up.
Top Returning Attack: 6’2” junior Kyle Wassil (29 G, 14 A) has a serious crank and his size should pose serious matchup issues for opposing poles while senior Lucas Colavecchio (16 G, 14 A) and junior Jack Longden are poised for bigger roles.
Top Returning Mids: Senior Joey van de Veerdonk (33 G, 14 A) won 202 faceoffs last year and is a primary scoring option. Alex Sirico, Ethan Mounier, Charlie Broas and talented sophomore Garrett Leitmann make up the strength of the unit.
Top Returning Poles: the quick development of juniors Chris Pateman, Cam Carroll and Jaycen Fowler will be key to the success of the season.
Goalie: junior Dan Clements will be pushed by sophomore Jake Listwan to start, both are competent.
Key Newcomers: Junior M Joe Cioffi, sophomore LSM Sam Montaldo, junior D Paul Keesler, junior M Dominic Gencarelli, junior A Finbar Cronin and sophomore A Jack Murphy, plus senior M Louis Alvarez are expected to make an impact in their rookie seasons.
Circle the Date: March 21 season opener vs. Keio is what they say; we like March 20th (vs. Mahopac) and May 7th (vs. Pleasantville). The Mahopac game will determine Putnam County supremacy and the P’Ville game will tell us if the Tigers have a prayer in Class D.
“We want to be in a position to compete for a sectional championship but have to worry about today,” Coach Weir said. “We can’t afford worry about yesterday and we can’t predict tomorrow. Our sticks skills have improved tremendously from a year ago. We will be able to score goals and win face-offs.
“Our ability to maintain consistency throughout an entire game, and cutting down on unforced turnovers is something we need to be mindful of,” the coach added.
Reigning NYS champion Pleasantville remains both the league and section favorites. The Panthers are just the fourth Section 1 program in history to win a state title; joining Yorktown (7), Bronxville (1) and Mahopac (1).
“We have improved each year we have been here,” Weir said of the Tigers. “Year 1, we were not very good. Year 2, we showed improvement. This being Year 3, it’s time to step up and compete with the big boys. We have the potential but need to stay focused on ourselves and get better each day. Our kids have had a very good off season and are very excited for this season.”
Coaches are encouraged to contact Boys’ Lax beat writer Ray Gallagher before noon on Sunday at firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion in our weekly notebook.
Ray has 33 years experience covering and photographing local sports in Westchester and Putnam counties, including everything from Little League/Travel Baseball to varsity high school prep sports and collegiate coverage. He has been a sports editor at Examiner Media since its inception in 2007.