After an offseason spent playing box lacrosse indoors, Syosset's slick junior attack Mac O'Keefe couldn't wait to get outdoors for the real lacrosse season to begin. But an ankle injury suffered nearly two weeks ago created some doubt about his readiness for the season opener.
"I was on the sidelines at practice, just itching to get in there," O'Keefe said. "But I practiced [Monday] and I was 100 percent ready."
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That was evident as O'Keefe scored five goals to lead Nassau Class A favorite Syosset to a 9-7 victory over perennial Class B contender Garden City Tuesday in a season-opening non-league boys lacrosse game at Syosset-Woodbury Park.
"It felt great to beat such a great program," said O'Keefe, who scored the Braves' first three goals, tied the score at 5 early in the third quarter on a nifty underhanded shot and put the game out of reach with a blast from the left wing with 3:38 left in the fourth to make it 9-6.
"After the ankle sprain, we kept him out of all our practices and scrimmages, but because his fitness level is phenomenal and his stick skills weren't affected, I wasn't worried," Syosset coach John Calabria said. "Last year, he was a catch-and-shoot guy. He worked all season on becoming a better dodger and now he's added that to his game."
Despite a fierce wind that had some effect on shots and passes, O'Keefe had a terrific first quarter, demonstrating his newly acquired dodging skills with two unassisted goals, and finishing in front of the cage off a fine feed from Alex Concannon, who scored one goal and chipped in two assists.
But Garden City took a 5-4 lead into the halftime break on a goal by Conor Muldoon (two goals, one assist), and with faceoff specialist James Sullivan winning 14 of the 16 draws he took, the Trojans were in striking distance until O'Keefe's final tally.
"I was very pleased with the poise and intensity we showed in the second half," Calabria said. "This is a great program with a great coach and we've been opening against them for years but they usually get the best of us."
Nassau County historian Jack White confirmed that Garden City and Syosset have played each other in the season opener since 2008, with the Braves' previous victory coming in 2009.
O'Keefe had a lot to do with reversing that trend and perhaps starting another one for O'Keefe and the Braves: This year, they'll be playing a lot of dodge ball.