It was another brutal winter day at an indoor practice facility. The ball was zipping from player to player with such zest and skill that Cold Spring Harbor boys lacrosse coach Dennis Bonn couldn't help but turn the pages of the calendar in his mind to May and June.
"They were really passing the ball around, looking for the open man. They were athletic. We had a defense. I thought, 'This could be it,' " Bonn reflected.
The 2015 Seahawks definitely had the 'it' factor. They not only had three on attack and three at midfield that could score from anywhere on the field, a veteran goalie and a senior leader on defense, but they had an all-powerful motivational tool entering the season: Anger.
"They were mad. They were upset. They were frustrated, thinking they were the better team two years in a row," Bonn said, alluding to Cold Spring Harbor's losses in the Nassau Class C final in 2014 (to Locust Valley) and 2013 (Friends Academy).
"We were heartbroken the last two years," sophomore midfielder Matt Licciardi said.
The Seahawks' hearts are soaring now. They finished 19-1, won their final 18 games and wrapped up their first state championship since 2006 with a heart-pounding 9-8 victory over Cazenovia in the state Class C title game on June 6 at Vestal High School in Binghamton.
"I'm so happy for the kids, the school, the community," Bonn said after the ritual ice-water dumping upstate. "It had been such a whirlwind throughout the playoffs you almost didn't have time to breathe. It's wonderful."
That's an appropriate word to describe Cold Spring Harbor's depth and talent on offense. The attack was led by senior Colin Burke (49 goals, 29 assists) and complemented by sophomores Ian Laviano (28 goals, 22 assists) and Ryan Winkoff (19 goals, 37 assists). The midfield was youthful and talented led by sophomore Taylor Strough (29 goals, 25 assists). Another sophomore, faceoff wizard Matt Licciardi, scored 16 goals with 20 assists and junior Riley Cox had 29 goals and nine assists.
"It could be anyone in any game," said Strough, who scored four goals against Cazenovia, all assisted by his childhood friend Licciardi.
Class A powerhouse Syosset handed the Seahawks their only loss, 11-4, in the second game of the season and they were rarely tested the rest of the way. They scored at will and shut teams down with a defense that featured All-American John Shea and gritty senior goalie Will Doyle. They cruised through the playoffs . . . until the tension-filled state final.
In addition to Strough's four goals, Cox and Laviano had two each and Licciardi had one plus those four assists as CHS built a 9-6 lead early in the fourth quarter. But Cazenovia rallied, cutting the deficit to one with 2:09 left.
In the closing minutes, Shea and Doyle were under siege, but made several key plays, including two body saves by Doyle in the final 30 seconds.
"We won by one goal. We hung on. What a memory for the seniors," Bonn said. "Nothing will ever take that away from them. It was a great ride."
It was a thrill-ride with twists and turns to the very end. "Those last two saves were unreal," Licciardi said. "My heart was pounding in my chest."
But this time, the Seahawks' hearts weren't broken.