Lacrosse players come to St. Anthony’s to be challenged.
With one of the top boys programs in the nation, local teams don’t always jump at the opportunity to schedule the Friars. This has forced St. Anthony’s to search out opponents, often facing some of the top competition from other states.
“We go against the best teams because we want to be the best,” said attackman Jake Bonomi, of Northport. “So in our mind to be the best, you have to beat the best, and that’s the way our program has been built to be.”
St. Anthony’s coach Keith Wieczorek estimated the Friars opened the season against eight of the top 20-ranked preseason teams in the country, and said they faced probably at least 10 teams that were ranked at some point in the season. The challenge of facing top teams helped the Friars win the state CHSAA Class AAA title with a 14-13 comeback victory over Chaminade May 15.
“The kids love our schedule, we want to challenge ourselves to play the best teams,” Wieczorek said. “We’re already talking about playing the top teams next year.”
“The majority of our schedule is against top 25 teams,” said long stick midfielder Greg Campisi of Farmingdale. “We come to St. Anthony’s to play those games. It’s what makes St. Anthony's lacrosse so great - the competition you play is so good.”
The Friars finished with a 15-1 record this season with their only defeat a 13-7 decision to Chaminade April 10.
“That loss, especially kind of early on, really woke us up,” Campisi said. “It was almost a good way in a way that we lost because we realized we weren't invincible.”
St. Anthony’s won its final 10 games, none in a more thrilling fashion than its most important one - the state final against Chaminade. The Friars trailed, 12-10, entering the fourth quarter - not the first time they found themselves behind or in a close game in the final minutes. That’s where the tough, competitive schedule during the year played to their advantage.
With the score 13-13 with 4:03 left to play, Bonomi delivered the winning goal off an assist from Danny Parker.
“When the pressure's on, we’re used to it on because of all that competition we had early on in the season,” Bonomi said. “It made us ready in those high-pressured championship games.”
“We were battle tested and the kids answered the bell when they needed to,” Wieczorek said. “I think just the merit of the team was tested enough where the moment wasn’t too big for them.”