Can West Islip make it eight straight?
"Until someone unseats them when it counts, they are the team to beat,'' Sachem North coach Jay Mauro said of the Lions, who have won four of the last five state Class A titles as well as seven straight Suffolk crowns.
With Nicky Galasso, the nation's top-rated recruit, now starring at North Carolina, top-seeded West Islip will feature a more balanced, share-the-wealth offense. Midfielders Mike Sagl, Conor Braddish and Mike Diggle are the team's strength. Sagl and slick attack Drew Federico were 40-goal scorers last season. The defense is strong with Kyle Carrick and goalie Kyle Turri.
Several teams are poised to challenge the Lions, who finished last season on a 21-game winning streak after losing the opener to Sachem North. Perennially strong Ward Melvillehas solid scorers in Will Mazzone and John Edmonds and a veteran defense. Smithtown West might have the best front line on Long Island in Kyle Keenan, James Pannell and Matt Schultz. Pannell, the nation's No. 3-rated junior recruit, according to Inside Lacrosse, occasionally might move to midfield, where the Bulls are inexperienced. Jordan Stevens leads a good defense.
Sachem North, already loaded with college-bound talent led by middie Mike Andreassi, received a huge boost when Hicksville star Brandon Gamblin, an explosive offensive middie who was the leading scorer on Long Island's gold-medal Empire State Games team, transferred in. East Islip, Connetquot and Whitman also will make noise. The Wildcats feature Duke-bound Myles Jones, Long Island's highest-rated senior recruit, at No. 10 nationally, according to Inside Lacrosse.
This group doesn't appear to be as deep, but there are at least three outstanding teams. Defending county champion Comsewogue, which lost an overtime heartbreaker to Garden City in last year's Long Island championship game, is the top seed. The Warriors are led by rugged defenseman Matt Scalera, middie Connor Duddy and attack Ryan Brunet.
Traditional power Shoreham-Wading River will contend with dangerous middies Trevor Brosco and Mike Malave. On attack, sophomore Tim Rotanz, son of veteran coach Tom, will assume a large scoring role. After an off year, Sayville is ready to rejoin the elite of Class B. The Golden Flashes already have beaten Wantagh in a non-league game and feature All-County goalie Pat Fleming.