There were about 50 college coaches sitting in beach-style canvas chairs on the sidelines, taking notes and watching closely as many of Long Island’s top high school underclassmen displayed their talents in the Long Island Lacrosse Showcase Friday night at Farmingdale State.
The Nassau players in the Rising Junior game were oblivious. “They weren’t thinking about the college coaches watching,” Nassau coach Isaac Neal of Port Washington said. “There was no superstar attitude. They just wanted to beat Suffolk.”
All three teams from the 631 had won last year’s games in this annual event, and because so many of the players know each other from the highly competitive summer travel-team circuit, there was some extra juice to the 2017 Showcase. “We knew all three teams lost to Suffolk and we play with each other in the summer, so we really wanted to win,” said Massapequa attack Sam Lutfi.
Lutfi and Nick Turrini (Calhoun) each scored twice to help the Nassau Rising Juniors achieve their goal with an 11-8 victory in the second of four games. Suffolk’s Rising Seniors won the opener, 9-6. Nassau’s Rising Freshman (a game added this year) romped, 16-5. In the Rising Sophomore game, Suffolk made it three of four with a 14-4 triumph.
“There’s a lot of talent out there and we had a lot of chemistry,” Lutfi said. “We just ran a regular motion offense with not many set plays. But we had a smart group of guys.”
That explains why there was so much passing and ball movement on offense, even though all-star games frequently are stages for one-on-one moves and low-percentage circus shots. That wasn’t the case for the most part Friday, with very few no-look shots.
“We only had one practice after the tryouts,” Neal said, noting that a scheduled practice was canceled because of extreme heat earlier in the week. “But they trusted each other.”
Turrini scored the first goal of the game and the last goal of the first half to cap a three-goals-in-two-minutes flurry for Nassau that produced a 6-4 halftime lead. Seven Nassau players scored one goal each, a demonstration of the talent base as well as the share-the-ball philosophy. “Everybody knows how to play lacrosse and no one was unselfish,” Turrini said.
That was true of Suffolk as well. James Ringer (Bayport-Blue Point) scored on a jump shot and strong split dodge, while six other players scored one goal apiece.
The Rising Senior game (featuring current juniors) followed a similar script, but with a different winner. Midfielder James Lyons (Sayville) was the only two-goal scorer for either team. His goal from the crease on a nice setup from Jeffrey Atlas (Islip) gave Suffolk an 8-5 lead with seven minutes left. Nassau cut it to one on a goal by long-stick midfielder Kevin McCormick (Farmingdale), but another slick feed from Atlas freed Pete LaSalla (Mount Sinai) for a rocket that clinched it. LaSalla also excelled on faceoffs.
His Mount Sinai teammate, Joe Pirreca, scored on a solo dodge to cap a game-opening 4-0 burst by Suffolk. Defenseman Anthony Fillippetti (Miller Place) played a strong game against the high-powered Nassau offense and contributed a goal in transition after collecting a groundball on a faceoff scrum and rushing to the cage.
“It was a showcase for defense, too,” Fillippetti said. “Communication came into play. We talked a lot and did a good job.”
Pirreca nearly had a hat trick as he twice hit the pipe after dodging past a defender from behind the goal. “That’s my game. Get a step and either shoot or feed,” Pirreca said. “I felt comfortable and just played my game.”
Of the teamwork on display, Pirreca said, “Most of us know each other and we know the best way to win is keep the ball moving. There were no unselfish players out there.”