With an appreciative crowd numbering in the thousands standing and cheering at Stony Brook's LaValle Stadium last Saturday, several West Islip players, holding their state Class A championship plaques and trophies over their heads, sauntered to the stands. The Lions weren't just showing off; they were, finally, slowing down.
"We're a full-speed team," attack Drew Federico said.
In winning its second consecutive state Class A boys lacrosse title, and fourth in the last five years, West Islip utilized a blistering fast-break offense to win its final 21 games after an opening-day loss. The Lions averaged 15 goals a game, led by its All-American duo of attack Nicky Galasso (70 assists, 66 goals, 136 points) and midfielder Andrew Hodgson (51 goals, 44 assists, 95 points). Galasso finished his career with 500 points, a Long Island record.
"I can't just talk about Nicky. It's Nicky and Andrew. They're sidekicks and they complement each other," coach Scott Craig said. "But the reason we won another state championship wasn't Nicky and Andrew. We knew what we'd be getting with them. It was the way our other guys improved. Our offense had more weapons than last year."
Among those weapons were midfielders Mike Sagl (43 goals) and Rob Moore (41) and attack Federico (41) and Matt Gebhardt (25). "We move the ball. If we get open, we've got guys who will get us the ball," Sagl said. "The first game of the year was a real wake-up call. We did a great job of bouncing back from that."
The Lions had to replace three starters on defense, a starting goalie and one starting two-way midfielder from the 2009 state champions. "We started the season with an inexperienced defense, so we lost a shootout," Craig said. "At the beginning, we had the components; at the end we had jelled. We were a different team. And that's strictly because of experience."
The defense, overshadowed by an explosive offense that was in place from the start, became its own force. Lefthanded goalie Kyle Turri not only saved nearly 65 percent of the shots he faced, but was one of the best passing goalies on the Island, frequently triggering the vaunted fast break. Eddie Ryan, Kyle Kerrigan and Kyle Carrick formed an effective interior defense. The Lions allowed only 6.4 goals per game. After the loss to Sachem North, they did not allow double-digit goals until the state semifinals, when they blew out Lakeland/Panas, 20-10.
"We came together and played well as a unit," said defensive coach Bill Turri, the goalie's father. "We didn't have any super one-on-one guys."
On offense, of course, that wasn't the case. The Lions featured several players who could take over a game at any time. In the playoffs, that time seemed to be the third quarter, when West Islip outscored opponents 27-4 in its final four games, including a 7-0 spurt against Fairport in the state title game.
Galasso, who set the Long Island career scoring record in that finale, was in the middle of most of those flurries. "He made it so much easier for everyone else," Federico said.