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Rivals Danny Bucaro, Craig Berge are friends and will be teammates

This Newsday composite shows Ward Melville's Danny Bucaro,

This Newsday composite shows Ward Melville's Danny Bucaro, left, and Massapequa's Craig Berge. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan, James Escher

The voice was unfamiliar. The message was startling.

Ward Melville junior attack Danny Bucaro listened intently.

"Hey, you're going to Georgetown," the voice simply and sternly told Bucaro last summer during the Long Island Lacrosse Showcase at St. Joseph's College in Patchogue.

The words were Craig Berge's.

"I was like, whoa," Bucaro recalled. "I just said, 'All right, sounds good.' I was so shocked. My mouth was wide open and I was just like, what? Craig Berge just said that to me?"

There are a few reasons the name "Craig Berge'' resonated so much with Bucaro. Berge is regarded by many as the top midfielder in Nassau. Few share his physical presence at 6-1, 175 pounds. Even fewer could say they're in the same class when it comes to finding teammates near the crease. He's the senior leader of the Massapequa lacrosse team, which captured the Nassau Class A title last season.

Berge is also a blue-chip Georgetown recruit who decided to flip the script on the recruiting process and try his luck luring a young stud from Suffolk into the Hoya fold.

It was Bucaro, after all, who recently captured Berge's attention. He scored four goals and had two assists as Ward Melville defeated Berge's Chiefs, 12-3, last June to claim the Long Island championship.

As much as Berge was stunned by the result, he was impressed by Bucaro.

"I only knew who he was after he put up a ton of goals against us," Berge said. "I knew I would love to have him as a teammate because he's a very good player."

Once Berge expressed as much to Bucaro, an unexpected friendship between the rivals developed.

"Berge is just a leader," Bucaro said. "For him to do that was unbelievable. We just started texting after that day and we talk all the time now about this season, lacrosse and Georgetown."

The two quickly discovered they have a lot in common. Chief among them is the desire to win, or, as Bucaro prefers to say, a hatred toward losing.

"I don't like to lose," Bucaro said. "When we lost when I was in ninth grade in the county championship, I was upset the whole following summer. I couldn't stop thinking about it."

Bucaro said his plan was to do whatever he could to avoid experiencing that feeling the following season. It worked. He had 57 goals and 30 assists as the Patriots finished undefeated and became state champions last year.

"I didn't expect to get 87 points as a sophomore," Bucaro said. "Our motto was 'Refuse to Lose.' "

Berge, who also knows something about emerging in his sophomore season (21 goals, 23 assists), said last season's final game still haunts him. What Bucaro experienced two years ago is something Berge is well versed in.

"Last year was good, obviously, because we won the county championship and got over that hump, having lost three years in a row in that game," said Berge, who had 21 goals and 43 assists last season. "But now I'm motivated to get over the new hump."

Massapequa entered 2014 as the top-seeded team in its conference. Though Smithtown West was selected as the top-seeded team in Suffolk, defending champion Ward Melville still is the team with the target on its back.

The two Newsday All-Long Island players both agreed that dealing with high expectations and finding ways to thwart hungry opponents are good problems to have.

The way each finds success on the field is what makes Berge and Bucaro somewhat different, however. It's what has the potential to make them great complements to one another when they share the field in the future.

Bucaro is an explosive scorer who has the ability to find teammates. Berge is an extraordinary passer who has the ability to find the back of the net.

"Even in practice, I don't mind giving up the ball and making that extra pass," Berge said. "I think ever since I was little, I've been that way. If I have a 10-yard shot and someone else has a 2-yard shot, I'd give up that 10-yard shot any day."

Bucaro is looking forward to the day when he can be the recipient of such a feed.

He said it didn't take long to become enamored of Georgetown after Berge broached the subject of committing to the Big East school, which also will enjoy the services of St. Anthony's senior midfielder Greg Galligan.

"The town is unreal," Bucaro said. "I felt it in my stomach that I knew it was the school for me."

The only way Bucaro and Berge would be able to share the same field before becoming teammates in two years would be in a rematch of last season's Long Island championship game.

"I want that so badly," Bucaro said with a laugh. "I can't let him get payback, though. I guess I would have to beat him again."

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