Mike Rooney plays lacrosse in a football stadium. That seems fitting for the former East Islip High School quarterback, who may miss football but certainly has excelled in lacrosse for Stony Brook University.
Rooney, a sophomore attack, had 34 goals and 13 assists last season. He essentially serves as the quarterback on offense.
"I guess my smarts on the lacrosse field came from football a little bit," Rooney said. "Maybe it comes from film work in football. I can see things on the field and translate it."
Stony Brook lacrosse has several former football players. Coach Jim Nagle said: "We do look for athletes and guys who make decisions. Every guy on our team is responsible to read, react and make decisions."
Height played a part in the 5-9 Rooney's decision to seek a collegiate career in lacrosse instead of football. He was named to Newsday's All-Suffolk team in both sports. "I was a good football player, wasn't anything special," he said. "I knew lacrosse, loved it, was good at it."
Rooney knows several players on the college football team, but he hasn't thrown the ball around with the quarterbacks. "They'd embarrass me," he joked. Playing at LaValle Stadium, which was built for football, is "maybe a little intimidating [to opponents]," Rooney said. "It's like a big-time stadium. They may not be used to playing in that kind of atmosphere."
Stony Brook has used that to its advantage. This season presents another opportunity; the four-team America East Tournament will be at LaValle.
"It's awesome, knowing that we're going to get it at home," Rooney said. "You have to live up to it now and win, so you don't have two other teams playing for the conference championship."
Stony Brook was 7-10 last season but won the automatic bid and advanced to the NCAA tournament.
"LaValle can really get packed out," defenseman and captain Savaughn Green said. "It's a good time."
With 18 freshmen, Nagle said the team is in transition, but he does not expect less than a return trip to the NCAAs. He has addressed the pressing need at faceoff and will select between Zach Smith and Frank Lucatuorto. "To say we are young would be an understatement," Nagle said.
Young but talented. Matt Schultz, a high school All-American, had 64 goals and 27 assists for Smithtown West. Defender Steven Ferreira, Sayville's all-time leader in ground balls, could make an immediate impact. Dan Shaughnessy, who attended high school near Boston, will start in goal.
"We're trying to win the regular season and win the conference tournament," Nagle said. "Those are our focal points, and if you do that, you're going to the NCAA Tournament regardless of what you do, and hopefully compete a lot better when we get there."