Port Washington ready to keep season going

Port Washington defenseman Jesse Kaplan #8 clears the Port Washington defenseman Jesse Kaplan #8 clears the ball while Plainview JFK's Brent Epler #6 gives chase during a Nassau Class A quarterfinal game. (May 15, 2013) Photo Credit: Dan Neri

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It’s been a while since a Port Washington boys lacrosse team advanced to a Nassau Class A final.

“Yeah, I think it was before I was born,” said freshman goalie Nick Ferrero.

The Vikings are the only team out of the six vying for a Nassau title on Tuesday that has not appeared in a championship game at least once in the past three seasons. Port Washington’s hiatus stretches 14 years. Players such as defender Jesse Kaplan said school alumni, including former players, have stopped to congratulate them around town for making it this far.

Yet by no means is the team on some improbable Cinderella story.

Port Washington won 10 games in the regular season.

Port Washington earned the No. 3 seed in Class A.

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Port Washington defeated second-seeded Syosset, last year’s Nassau Class A champion, last week in a semifinal game.

And Port Washington is led by one of the best high school attackers in the country, senior John Crawley, who believes the run won’t end in Tuesday night’s Class A final game at 7:30 at Hofstra against top-seeded Massapequa (14-2).

“We can absolutely pull another one off,” Crawley said. “We’ve had a good week of preparation. They are definitely a tough challenge but I’m so confident in our team.”

Crawley, full of zest and emphatic about what he believes his team’s chances are at winning, is fully aware a championship victory is no cinch.

Massapequa — which happens to be the team that beat Port Washington in the team’s most recent final appearance in 1999 — has displayed no weaknesses. The Chiefs are on a seven-game winning streak, outscoring opponents 100-48 during that span. One of those wins came at the expense of Port Washington, a lopsided 16-6 affair on May 8.

Jim Byrnes had eight goals and one assist in the win.

“We let in a lot of crease goals,” Crawley said. “Some of our poles contained some of their best players like Ian Kirby and Craig Berge. They really didn’t have that much of an effect. But we put too much focus on them rather than Byrnes. They have so many weapons, that’s why it’s so hard.”

It’s almost impossible. Paul Bentz, Berge and Byrnes totaled almost 200 points during the regular season. Paul Dilena scored more than 30 goals, and Kirby had 25.

Massapequa can score from the outside, and a lot can come down to Ferrero’s ability to make key stops. And not many on Port Washington’s roster doubt that he will.

“He’s unbelievable,” said Kaplan about the young goalie. “I think he’s the best goalie in the country. I started with him last year and this year his potential keeps getting higher. The sky is the limit for him.”

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The Vikings have improved in other areas that may help give them a chance, including clearing and faceoffs. Joey Froccaro, who takes faceoffs for Port Washington, said he’s up for the challenge against Massapequa’s Joe DeMarco.

“I’ve been taking more faceoffs this week and I feel confident,” he said. “I’m not content with just making the finals.”

After Port Washington defeated the former champion last week, coach Tom Rooney instituted a “24-hour rule.” He permitted his team to soak in the victory for one day. Since then, the focus has not waned from the ultimate goal. Unlike two years ago, when Massapequa eliminated the Vikings in a semifinal game, the Port Washington players said they aren’t fully satisfied.

“We’re passed the happy to be there stage," Kaplan said, "and we’re looking to bring a county championship back to Port Washington."

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