Looking Ahead: Suffolk County (NY Section XI)
On the bottom of the back of the jerseys that the Smithtown East boys lacrosse team will wear throughout this season is the phrase: "Hunger For More."
The Bullsí captains, James Sarrocco, John Daniggelis and Brian Willetts, thought it was fitting to include because although the team made history last season by capturing the first Suffolk Class A title in program history, they're not exactly satisfied.
And they want that bit of information known throughout the county.
"We have to stay focused and remember we didn't win our last game last year," Bulls coach Jason Lambert said. "The bull's-eye is on our back. We play in the best league in the country. We got to keep working."
Indeed, there are a few capable teams that could ruin Smithtown East's thoughts of repeating. Ward Melville is chief among them. The Patriots return Danny Bucaro (Georgetown), who is regarded by many as one of the best attackmen in the country. Bucaro will get help offensively from senior Jake McCuloch (Cornell). The defense returns a mighty duo in Thomas Reilly (Cornell) and Mike Cirrone (Richmond).
Suffolk is now split into four leagues. Leagues I and II feature Class A teams, League III is Class B and League IV represents Class C. Many Class A coaches believe the split, which was based on population, came out fair in terms of talent and depth.
There are seemingly a lot of strong teams in Class B that could make a run at the county title. Rocky Point, the defending county champion, returns Alex Borja (Hartford), who scored 40 goals last season, and versatile midfielder Jack Sullivan (Binghamton), who had 17 goals, 15 assists and won 69 percent of faceoffs. Miller Place, Sayville, Shoreham-Wading River and Comsewogue will be constant hurdles in the way of Rocky Point's attempt to repeat.
Sayville has a lethal scoring duo in Matt Selts (Marist) and Jack Coan. Comsewogue has one of the strongest defensive units in the county, led by goalie Jake Macgregor. Shoreham-Wading River returns four-year starter Ryan Bray (Cornell) at midfield. Miller Place, a perennial contender, has senior attack Jake Buonaiuto (Bryant), who emerged last season with 42 goals and 17 assists.
"This season, whichever team makes it out on top will be able to say it is very deserving," Comsewogue coach Pete Mitchell said. "We know that much."
In Class C, defending county champion Babylon graduated its top three scorers, its starting goalie, faceoff specialists and top two defensive players. The young team could surprise, however, behind junior midfielder Brian Boehm, who Panthers coach John Greaney said would be relied on to quarterback the offense.
Center Moriches is also young, but is an early favorite to do a lot better than the 4-11 season it experienced last year. Junior attack Andrew Zito (22 goals, 20 assists) and sophomore attack Keegan Maxwell (19 goals) seem poised for breakouts. The Red Devils are seeking their first playoff appearance. The Class C title is up for grabs with perennial finalist Bayport-Blue Point now in Class B with Shoreham-Wading River, which moved up last year.
Class A Teams to Beat
Smithtown East (2014 record 16-4, Class A Suffolk champion)
Key returnees: Gerard Arceri, FO/Midfield, Jr. (Penn State); John Daniggelis, Midfield, Sr. (Yale); Brian Willetts, Attack, Sr. (Notre Dame); James Sarrocco, Defense, Sr. (Marist); Connor Desimone, Attack, Soph. (Johns Hopkins)
Outlook: Willetts is a high-profile senior who was at one point committed to North Carolina before switching to Notre Dame. The Bulls have one of the best sophomores in the country in Connor DeSimone (Johns Hopkins). Trent Starr, a junior midfielder in his first year on varsity, will start and could enjoy a breakout season. The team is loaded at the face-off X with Arceri and Steven Cuccurullo (Harvard). The defense will be keyed by Sarrocco, who at times last year was the Bulls' best cover guy. The Bulls started off 2015 in strong fashion, defeating East Islip (17-6), Half Hollow Hillls West (12-10) and Locust Valley (24-1).
Ward Melville (2014 record 12-5)
Key returnees: Dan Bucaro, Attack, Sr. (Georgetown); Jake McCulloch, Attack, Sr. (Cornell); Thomas Reilly, Defense, Sr. (Cornell); Mike Cirrone, Defense, Sr. (Richmond); Jimmy Kickel, Midfield, Sr. (Stony Brook)
Outlook: Bucaro is one of the country's top high school players and helps make the Patriots better in every way on offense. Cirrone and Reilly will anchor the defense. Kickel is an underrated versatile threat. This team is led by players who were instrumental – just as sophomores – in helping Ward Melville win the 2013 Class A state title. The Patriots came out of the gate hot, defeating Sachem East 13-6, then taking an important early win over a powerful Sachem North team 16-7 to start 2-0 this season.
Sachem North (2014 record 13-3)
Key returnees: Jacob Giacalone, Goalie, Jr. (Johns Hopkins); Sean O'Brien, Midfield, Sr. (Army); Ian Junge, Defense, Sr.; Tom Haun, Attack, Jr. (Stony Brook); James Avanzato Attack So.
Outlook: In his first year starting, Giacalone was named Suffolk Goalie of the Year by the county coaches association. Avanzato, who is verbally committed to Maryland, could have a breakout season. Bobby Amato, a three-year starter committed to Stony Brook, will be a leader on defense with Junge. Outside of the loss to Ward Melville, the Flaming Arrows have stifled opponents in victories over the MIAA's Archbishop Spalding (14-4), Suffolk County's Patchogue-Medford (8-3) and William Floyd (11-7) and New Jersey's St. Joseph Metuchen (18-6).
Class A Teams to Watch
Smithtown West (2014 record 16-2) Don't count out the Bulls of Smithtown West. A season that sees the team potentially overlooked entering the spring, the Bulls are off to a 4-0 start with a key win over a talented Half Hollow Hills West team. The team features college bound players who played rolls in recent seasons and have a strong face-off man in Syracuse-bound Danny Varello. The Bulls have wins over North Babylon, West Bablyon and Penfield, an impressive 8-0 shutout.
Half Hollow Hills West (2014 record 11-6) The attack unit could be one of the best on Long Island behind Duke-verbal commit Cam Mule (33 goals and 31 assists as a freshman) and senior Ryan Ozsvath, who is committed to Stony Brook. Top-notch defender and St. John's commit Malcolm Flynn is coming back from an injury. The Colts showed they can hang with top Long Island teams, losing by one goal to Smithtown West 7-6 and then Smithtown East 12-10.
Class B Teams to Beat
Rocky Point (2014 record 18-2, Class B Suffolk champion)
Key returnees: Alex Borja, Midfield, Sr. (Hartford); Jack Sullivan, Midfield, Sr. (Binghamton); Chris Vaden, Attack, Sr.; Sean Orlando, Midfield, Sr.; Brendan Cain Attack Sr.
Outlook: The defending county champions feature a strong offense led by Borja, who scored 40 goals last season. Sullivan is a versatile player who won an impressive 69 percent of draws at the face-off X in 2014.
Miller Place (2014 record 13-6)
Key returnees: Jake Buonaiuto, Attack, Sr. (Bryant); Thomas Liantonio, Midfield, Sr. (LIU Post); Kevin Gersbeck, Midfield, Soph. (Lehigh); Jacob Bloom, Defense, Sr.; Joe Bartolotto, Defense, Soph.
Outlook: Four-year starter Buonaiuto, who racked up 42 goals last season, leads the potent attack, which also could get a lift from face-off specialist Christian Stalter. The perennial contender could be in the mix for another county title. Midfielders Thomas Liantonio (LIU Post) will be taking on a bigger role in the offense, along with speedy sophomore Kevin Gersbeck (Lehigh).
Sayville (2014 record 12-6)
Key returnees: Matt Selts, Midfield, Sr. (Marist); Jack Coan, Midfield, So. (Notre Dame); Chris Rupp, Defense, Sr.; Joey Sichenzia, Goalie, Jr.; Dan Murphy, Defense, Sr.
Outlook: Coan, a big-time football quarterback, had a huge season last year on the lacrosse field. Coan and Selts provide the Golden Flashes an unselfish tandem.
Comsewogue (2014 record 10-8)
Key returnees: Will Snelders, Attack, Soph.; Matt Spahr, Defense, Jr. (Albany); Steven Reed, Defense, Jr.; Jake McGregor, Goalie, Jr.; Tyler Williams, Defense, Jr.
Outlook: McGregor emerged as one of the best goalies in the league. Spahr, Reed and Williams comprise one of the top defenses in the league. Face-off specialist Zack Deutsch (NYIT) will play a key role.
Class B Team to Watch
Shoreham-Wading River (2014 record 9-8)
Key returnees: Ryan Bray, Midfield, Sr. (Cornell); Danny Hughes, Midfield, Sr. (Stony Brook);
Cornell-bound Ryan Bray (42 goals) and Danny Hughes (26 goals) are an explosive scoring duo that could lead the team to the county final under first-year head coach Mike Taylor.
Class C Team to Beat
Babylon (2014 record 11-8, Class C Suffolk champion) Key returnees: Brian Boehm, Midfield, Jr.; Sean Quigley, Defense, Jr.; Adam Gumbardo, Defense, Jr.; John Botto, Defense, Sr.; Zach Amelia, Midfield, Soph.
Outlook: There are some question marks like who will take faceoffs and who will play goalie, but the Panthers return enough to be considered the favorite. Boehm will quarterback the offense and could add to his 18 goals and 11 assists from last season.
Class C Teams to Watch
Mattituck-Greenport (2014 record 4-13) One of a couple teams that could emerge to battle for a sectional title this season, Mattituck-Greenport started the season 2-0 with two convincing wins over McGann-Mercy and Center Moriches, a combined 29-6.
Center Moriches (2014 record 4-11) Andrew Zito (27 goals, 20 assists) and Keegan Maxwell (19 goals) were the team's leading scorers. Goals are to get to 10 wins for the first time and to make the playoffs for the first time. An early season setback to Mattituck-Greenport
Players to Watch
Danny Bucaro, Ward Melville, Attack Sr. (Georgetown) Regarded by many as one of the top high school players in the country, he missed a few games because of nagging injuries and still had 33 goals and 27 assists last season. Bucaro could lead the Patriots back to the county final.
Ryan Bray, Shoreham-Wading River, Attack, Sr. (Cornell) He scored 42 goals last season. The four-year starter could lead SWR on a deep playoff run.
Brian Willetts, Smithtown East, Attack, Sr. (Notre Dame) Willetts scored 60 goals and had 31 assists while leading the Bulls to the Suffolk Class A title in 2014.
Austin Henningsen, Northport, FO/Midfield, Sr. (Maryland) He has solidified himself as one of Long Island's best faceoff specialists. He is headed to Maryland.
John Daniggelis, Smithtown East, Midfield, Sr. (Yale) Daniggelis registered 28 goals and 23 assists last season, including four goals in the Suffolk Class A championship win over West Islip.
Gerard Arceri, Smithtown East, Faceoff, Jr. (Penn State) He won 20 of 21 faceoffs, scored a goal and added two assists to lead Smithtown East to its first Suffolk Class A boys lacrosse championship over West Islip. Regarded by many as the top face-off guy on Long Island, Arceri could see more scoring opportunities this season.
Jacob Giacalone, Sachem North, Goalie, Jr. (Johns Hopkins) One of the country's top high school goalies. He's very athletic and is adept at stopping shots from close range. Giacalone was named the county's top goalie after his first year on varsity last year.
Nick DiPietro, Half Hollow Hills East, Defense, Jr. (Syracuse) Likes to push in transition and uses his size – 6 feet 2 inches, 195 pounds – to lock up whoever he guards. He's headed to Syracuse.
Cam Mule, Half Hollow Hills West, Attack, Soph. (Duke) He had 32 goals and 31 assists as a freshman. He said he added on about 10 pounds of muscle and grew a few inches so he might be poised for an even bigger season.
Jake Buonaiuto, Miller Place, Attack, Sr. (Bryant) The 6-foot, 200-pound playmaker racked up 42 goals and 17 assists last season.
Kevin Snyder, Commack, Midfield, Soph. (Maryland) A versatile player who won 77 percent of the face-offs he took and also had 19 goals and 10 assists last year.