For Islip’s history-makers, getting out of Suffolk and off Long Island was the hardest part of the journey. It had nothing to do with traffic on the Long Island Expressway and everything to do with roadblocks put up by stubborn opponents.
The Buccaneers needed back-to-back tension-filled, last-second victories over Mount Sinai in the county final and Cold Spring Harbor in the Long Island championship before they got to the state Class C boys lacrosse final four.
“Our goal was to win a state title and make a legacy for ourselves,” senior long-stick midfielder Ethan Rall said. “I’ve been playing with the seniors since the first grade. They’re my brothers. We just kept pushing.”
Islip (19-2) was pushed to the brink twice. Then came 13 seconds that will forever live in Buccaneers lore. Against Mount Sinai, Mike Bienkowski dodged from behind the cage and scored with 5.6 seconds left for a 6-5 victory and the first Suffolk title in program history. Against Cold Spring Harbor, Jeff Atlas did the same thing as the second option — Bienkowski was covered — with 7.4 seconds remaining for an 8-7 win over the Seahawks, who had won the previous three state Class C titles.
“There will never be another year like this at Islip,” Bienkowski said after the Buccaneers breezed past Westhill, 9-3, in the state championship game at St. John Fisher College outside Rochester.
That’s because Islip had never won a county, Long Island or state title in boys lacrosse.
“We got on a roll in the middle of the year,” coach Keith Scheidel said. “We were seeded No. 1 in the preseason, so we thought it would be a special team if we stayed healthy.”
Bienkowski missed two games with an injury and those were Islip’s only two losses. Bienkowski, Newsday’s Suffolk County player of the year, led the team with 49 goals and added 26 assists. He scored the first four goals and totaled six in the state title game. “He’s a difference-maker,” Scheidel said. “He shoots it righty and lefty on the run.”
Joe Juengerkes (40 goals), Chris Giuliani (48), Atlas (31) and Ryan Scheidel (23) — the coach’s nephew — complemented Bienkowski. Faceoff specialist Nick Barry frequently jump-started the offense, winning 82 percent of his draws, and went 10-for-14 in the state final.
Defensively, Rall and defenseman Teddy McLoughlin, who held two opponents scoreless in the playoffs, led a unit that often was impenetrable in front of goalie Devin DeGennaro, who also came up big in the postseason. “No one could dodge against our six guys,” Rall said of the Islip middies and defensemen. “Our defense knew what to do. We’ll remember this for the rest of our lives.”
Scheidel will share those memories. “We knew it was the first time for us, but we tried not to dwell on it,” the coach said. “This was a special group of kids and we just wanted to keep going to practice with them. It was a different guy, a different senior every game. We earned this.”
In a couple of cases, the hard way.
ROAD TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP
Suffolk B playoffs
Bayport-Blue Point, 10-7
Mount Sinai, 6-5
Long Island championship
Cold Spring Harbor, 8-7