Bayport-Blue Point girls lacrosse coach Ryan Gick speaks highly of Suffolk Division II, and not just because his Phantoms are in its upper echelon.
He likens Division II to the famous Yankees lineups of the 1920s, stocked with dangerous hitters from top to bottom.
But instead of Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig swinging for the fences, Division II features Cassidy Weeks, Meaghan Tyrrell, Madison Sanchez, Belle Smith and others shooting for the back of the net. Division II has an almost impossibly deep lineup of individual players for teams to navigate through, making it one of the most competitive collections of teams.
“When you play in Division II, it’s really a brawl.” said Mount Sinai coach Al Bertolone, who has won four of the last five state Class C crowns. “That is what I really felt has taken our program to the next level. It’s a real power conference.”
Division I is a gauntlet in its own right, featuring perennial powers Ward Melville, Northport and Middle Country. But Division II has a different makeup, with three classifications competing against each other to produce marquee matchups.
Suffolk abandoned the two-division format in favor of several smaller leagues last season, but several coaches said the current structure benefits each type of team. Those expected to contend will face the top competition, and those in the middle of the pack will face similar opponents.
Teams like Mt. Sinai use it to their advantage, priming themselves for the playoffs with a rigorous regular season. Weeks, a Bayport-Blue Point midfielder and Boston College commit, said the regular season is a litmus test for the postseason.
“We have a very strong schedule between Mt. Sinai, Rocky Point and a bunch of other teams,” said Weeks, whose identical twin sister, Courtney, will join her at Boston College. “It really prepares us because we have these strong teams and we’re able to try and show what we do. If we do have a loss, it really drives us to practice harder and fix the mistakes we made.”
Bayport-Blue Point, Rocky Point and Shoreham-Wading River figure to chase Mt. Sinai at the top of Class C come playoff time, with Westhampton expected to make a push as well.
Eastport-South Manor heads Class B as not only one of the top teams on Long Island but nationally, ranking 23rd, according to US Lacrosse. The Sharks lost to Garden City in last year’s Long Island Class B final, and the team led by junior standout Kasey Choma is hungry for more.
“I think last year we were a little disappointed losing in the Long Island Championship,” coach Becky Thorn said. “We were up by a couple goals at halftime. We graduated some girls who literally made history here. Now we know what it takes.”
Even Class D Mattituck / Southold is a threat in Division II. Moving down in the first season of Class D, the Tuckers made it to the state final four. Previously a Class C contender, the Tuckers aren’t an easy draw with some of the best depth in the county.
Mt. Sinai and Mattituck could be considered favorites to advance to the state tournament again this season, but ESM must first overcome Garden City. Sometimes, winning a Long Island title can be more difficult than playing upstate competition.
“We always feel just getting off the Island is the real accomplishment,” Bertolone said.
With so many star players on rosters with unimaginable depth, Suffolk Division II could feature some of the most exciting lacrosse around this spring.
“Our teams in Suffolk Ccounty, in all four classes, are at the top of the food chain,” Bertolone said. “Suffolk County is boomin.’ ”