Gerard Arceri, Brian Willetts help Smithtown East to victory
Gerard Arceri is challenged in a special way during lacrosse practices.
The Smithtown East sophomore faceoff specialist, who verbally committed to Penn State, is recognized as one of Long Island's best at his position. Yet so is freshman teammate Steven Cuccurullo.
While the situation has provided the Bulls quite a luxury, it has also brought out the best in Arceri lately.
"I try my hardest to do better than him and he's trying to do better than me and we're both better for it," Arceri said. "It's a friendly competition that reflects on the field. I'm doing well and getting better because of him."
Saturday provided a good example. Smithtown East defeated host Port Washington, 16-13, in a non-league game and Arceri won 17 of 24 faceoffs while battling the talented duo of Luke Cummings and Joey Froccaro, who took turns at the X for the Vikings.
"These two faceoff guys Port Washington has are really, really good and I think the competition I get in practice has a lot to do with getting me prepared for these kind of games," Arceri said.
Typical of the Bulls' season, Arceri wasn't the only player to shine. Brian Willetts had a game-high six goals and one assist and John Daniggelis, Joe Saggese and Bobby Burns each scored twice.
Froccaro and Ryan Garry each finished with three goals for Port Washington.
Smithtown East (9-1) pulled away in the third quarter with a 4-1 run after the score was tied at 7 at the half.
"Seven is really unlike our defense and that's the kind of thing I take personal," said Bulls' goalie Billy McEnroe, who finished with eight saves and was lifted from the game with nine minutes left and with his team leading 14-8. "That should never happen in a half. It made me want to be a better player in the second half. And I think that's the same feeling our whole defense had."
Smithtown East's defense, led by Robert Talay, communicated better in the second half with improved sliding and more energy. Anthony Leto's takeaway led to a goal for Smithtown East on the first offensive possession of the second half.
"That really set the tone," McEnroe said.
Luke Eschbach's goal with seven minutes left gave Smithtown East its largest lead at 15-9. The Vikings (4-6), however, clawed back to make it close with three straight goals.
Arceri, who was previously taken out because of the comfortable lead, was then inserted back into the game to do what few do better.
"They started to comeback so I just knew I had to get possession for my team and I just did that," Arceri said. "I kind of got out of it and when I got back out there I lost my first faceoff, but then I got back into the swing. You have to be in a groove if you want to keep winning faceoffs."