Will 2013 produce a perfect 10 or is nine the end of the line for West Islip?
Once again, there are several contenders trying to end the dynastic run of nine straight county Class A titles at West Islip, a stretch that also includes five of the last seven state championships.
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The Lions enter the season on a 19-game winning streak and figure to extend it led by a midfield unit that is hardly middle of the pack. Penn State-bound Nick Aponte and Delaware-bound Ryan Wieczorek accounted for 47 goals between them last season and don't be surprised if that total doubles as West Islip reloads on attack, with Kevin Braddish the most experienced returnee.
The defense looks strong led by Dan Johnson and Dan Madden and long-stick midfielder A.J. Ilchert. Goalie remains an early question mark.
Smithtown West is one of the primarily challengers in Division I. In fact, the Bulls are ranked several spots higher than West Islip, nationally, according to Inside Lacrosse. That's because they feature one of the best faceoff specialists around in Joe Varello (Navy). There are 13 Division I-bound players on the roster, led by high-scoring junior attack Ryan Keenan (Penn State), who scored 70 points as a sophomore, midfielder Christian Zawadzki (Maryland), and defensemen Logan Greco (Cornell) and Kyle Mathie (North Carolina).
Ward Melville, which lost in the Suffolk final to West Islip last season, features a returning All-American in midfielder Jack Bruckner, who scores, plays defense and wins faceoffs. He'll play at Duke. All-County middie Christian Mazzone is a force and Brendan Hegarty is a four-year starter at attack who is an excellent finisher around the net. Sophomore Dan Bucaro on attack already is a Division I prospect. Goalie Dan Nemirov is a returning starter, as is Mike Zerbo on defense.
Northport cannot be overlooked. Not with attack Brian Cannon (70 points, North Carolina) and Sean Gilroy (40 goals, Binghamton) and versatile midfielder John Trainer (50 points, Navy Prep). Smithtown East has an elite goaltender in North Carolina-bound senior Brian Balkam and sophomore middie John Danniggelis. Sachem North boasts a rock-solid defense led by Tyler Andreassi (Stony Brook) and Mike Aronow (Penn State). Middies Mike Calvagna and Joe Caridi are also Stony Brook-bound. Half Hollow Hills East, fresh off its first playoff appearance since 2006, is deep at attack led by All-County Jesse Parker, who scored 88 points as a junior. Sachem East also looks for a playoff spot behind All-County middie Joe Eiseman.
Sayville flashes some offense with All-L.I. quarterback Zach Sirico at attack. Bound for defending national champion Loyola (Md.), Sirico had goal and seven assists in the an opening-day victory and will be one of the leading scorers on L.I. Anthony Gonzalez has a rocket outside shot and Connor O'Neill (Marist) is an experienced middie.
Comsewogue, as always, is right there in a tough, deep division. The Warriors get midfield/attack Tyler DeLuca (torn ACL last season) back. They are strong on defense, too, led by Ryan O'Donoghue and Danny Kimmel.
Eastport-South Manor is a legit challenger led by elite middie Matt Prokesch. Westhampton (Brian Corrigan), Miller Place (Matt Liantonio) and Huntington (T.J. Greenhill) feature top-level goaltenders. Rocky Point (Nick Accardi) and Kings Park (Luke Toscano) feature strong defensemen and Islip's Kieran Mullins (seven goals, four assists in opener) is a dangerous scorer.
Shoreham-Wading River, the defending state champion, is young, but won't matter with two-time All-L.I. Tim Rotanz (91 points) back to run the offense. Sophomore middle Ryan Bray is a top prospect and Ryan Stern on defense. Glenn is led by midfielders Ken Massa (a faceoff specialist) and Mike Tufano. Bayport-Blue Point features second-team All-L.I. attack Brian Ward, a dynamic scorer with stick skills. Babylon is in the playoff picture because of junior football stars Eric Schweitzer, (defense), Nick Santorelli (attack) and Ray Wardell (midfield).