BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - Taylor Strough (as in wow) calls Matt Licciardi -- his teammate since the first grade -- "X-Man,'' not because of any superpowers Licciardi might possess but because he often controls games from the faceoff "X.''
Licciardi calls Strough "T'' for short, and on Saturday, both Cold Spring Harbor sophomores were letter-perfect.
Licciardi won 15 of 21 draws, including 12 of 14 in the second half, assisted on all four of Strough's goals and scored one himself as Cold Spring Harbor held off Cazenovia, 9-8, in a gripping state Class C boys lacrosse championship game at Vestal High School's Dick Hoover Stadium.
In winning their first state title since 2006, the Seahawks (19-1) didn't begin soaring until the second quarter. They spotted the Lakers (20-3) a 3-1 lead and uncharacteristically threw the ball away several times early. "I know I was nervous," said Licciardi, who got rid of his jitters the best way he knew how: by keeping the ball moving until a teammate got open.
" 'T' has a great shot. We got the two-on-one, I drew my man and passed it," Licciardi said.
The pals teamed up for Cold Spring Harbor's first three goals and one more early in the fourth quarter for a 9-6 lead that was very much in peril down the stretch. "Matty is always on. He gets us going. It could be anyone. My shots went in today," Strough said.
Ian Laviano and Riley Cox scored two goals each in the Seahawks' motion offense, in which the ball and the players are always moving. "We call it spinning the ball," CSH coach Dennis Bonn said. "We had the jitters early on, throwing the ball away. But we settled down. Just spin it, spin it. It just happened to be Taylor today. He shot the ball very well, but we always have six guys you have to account for."
One offensive player Seahawks opponents don't usually account for is goalie Will Doyle. But the senior, who scored earlier this season against Manhasset, went coast-to-coast midway through the fourth quarter and took a shot that bounced wide.
"I saw the middle of the field open," Doyle said. "I had Ian [Laviano] open on the wing, but if I threw it away, I knew Coach would be mad. We had backup, so I took the shot. Why not?"
Doyle had the answer in the fourth quarter, in his more traditional role. The Lakers took 10 shots that period and applied plenty of pressure. Cole Willard scored his second goal with 8:29 remaining, and with 2:09 left, P.J. Brown pounced on a rebound and scored his third to make it a one-goal game.
In the final half-minute, Doyle made two body saves to preserve the victory. "I would've like a two-goal lead at the time, but one was enough," he said. "I thought we had it once, but we lost the ball on offense again. I'm lucky those shots hit my body. Then I got that last ground ball and just threw it downfield. It was over. It's a surreal moment."
It was almost too real for Licciardi. "In the last 30 seconds,'' he said, "my heart was pounding in my chest."