Cold Spring Harbor’s three-peat seeking, downfield streaking, havoc-wreaking offensive trio of seniors Ian Laviano, Matt Licciardi and Taylor Strough have the magic touch that makes lacrosse balls regularly disappear behind opposing goalies. They’ve seen so much, sometimes they don’t even have to look.
“When Taylor is on the midfield line with me and I’m dodging on top I know exactly which spot he’s going to be in. I can just close my eyes and throw the ball to the spot and know he’s going to be there and he’ll put it in the back of the net,” said Licciardi, the team’s vocal leader. “And as far as Ian goes, when I’m coming down on a fast break, I just know the exact lane he’s going to take and I’ll put the ball on his stick and he’ll put it in the back of the net. We’ve been doing that for years and years.”
The threesome with 14 varsity seasons among them is about to begin its farewell tour. They are all committed to playing big-time Division I college lacrosse and going their separate ways after K-through-12 friendships that have blossomed on and off the field to produce a legacy so special it might even be historic. They led the Seahawks to an 18-1 record and state Class C title last year and a 19-1 mark with a state crown in 2015.
“They have had careers that stack up with anyone in Long Island history. No school from Long Island has ever won three state championships in a row,” Seahawks coach Dennis Bonn said. Ward Melville (twice), West Islip (twice), Huntington, Garden City and Manhasset each won two straight. “I’ll bring that up early on, but once the season starts we don’t talk about that again until the playoffs. They’ve all been easy to coach because they come to practice every day ready to work. They’ve never rested on their talents.”
Those are considerable talents, too. Licciardi is a four-year varsity player who will continue his career at Cornell. A midfielder, Licciardi scored 20 goals with 33 assists last season and is also an elite faceoff artist. Laviano, an attack, is a five-year player who has been a starter since midway through his eighth-grade year. An early commit to Virginia, Laviano scored 38 goals with 44 assists last year. Strough, in his fifth varsity season, did not become a starter until sophomore year, but has developed into a prolific sniper, scoring 52 goals last season. He is a middie who will join former CSH star Colin Burke at Fairfield.
All three are strongly motivated to do some more damage before finishing high school. “It’s very special to win the state championship and we don’t take it for granted,” Licciardi said. “We know it’s not a walk in the park to get there again. We’ve been really humble about it. We know the target gets bigger on our back every day.”
They are moving targets, starting with Licciardi, the team’s motor. “Matty really is a coach on the field,” Bonn said. “He knows when to push it and when to hold back. He plays defense, picks up ground balls, takes faceoffs, gets goals and always has a smile on his face.”
Laviano makes his coach smile. “He’s become a guy who will carry the ball the most and create,” Bonn said. “He always had special vision. It seems like he’s a step or two ahead of everyone else. He also does the dirty work. He’s an excellent rider and not afraid to go after ground balls.”
Strough is not afraid to let it fly and show off his hard shot. “He’s a physical kid, a weight room rat,” Bonn said. “He’s not as flashy as the other guys but he’s the one guy we don’t take off the midfield line. He’s on the wing on faceoffs; he never comes off on defense. Last year he was a time-and-room shooter. This year we’ll see more dodging and creativity.”
The three close friends have been creating magic since they were kids. “I don’t know how many championships we won on travel teams. So being able to play with these guys in high school has been awesome,” Strough said. “Being such good friends helps our chemistry on the field. I’ve gotten better just watching these guys play.”
Licciardi, the basketball team’s starting point guard, said lacrosse wasn’t even his first sport. “I started playing because my friends were playing. At first it was about just having fun,” he said. “Once we started getting our skills and realized how good we were, we were like, ‘This could be really special when we get to high school.’ ”
Those wonder years are just about over, but these wondrous Seahawks hope their championship run is not. “We went undefeated in seventh grade and after that season we were just, ‘wow!’ ” Laviano said. “The skill and competitiveness in our class is insane. It’s our last season together and it’s been fun every year. I definitely want to go out with a bang.”
And put one more piece of hardware in the trophy case. One that requires a third glance.