The home of the Denver Broncos was without a doubt the largest, noisiest stadium the Long Island Express lacrosse team had played in. It was also without question the highest stakes game — and the highest altitude — they’d ever played in.
Led by Alec Gregorek’s six goals, the Express’ Class of 2022 team topped Primetime, of Westchester, 12-4 in the World Series of Youth Lacrosse 13-under championship on July 4 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
The Express, a 22-player club team coached by St. Anthony’s High School junior varsity coach Mike Chanenchuk, went 7-1 in the three-day tournament and outscored opponents 106-23.
Gregorek, a 12-year-old from Shoreham-Wading River who had 25 goals and six assists in the tournament, was named to the All-World team along with teammates Joe Terenzi (Manhasset), Charles Balsamo (Manhasset), Jack Cascadden (Garden City) and Max McCarthy (Huntington).
“It was priceless,” said Chanenchuk, who goes by the nickname “Channy.” “When you’re coaching on this field at Mile High Stadium, with all the music and all the sound, these kids couldn’t really hear me. They’re playing on their whole intuitiveness and what they’re trained to play on.”
Terenzi, 13, had 15 goals and 11 assists in the tournament and said that hearing Chanenchuk on the sideline was nearly impossible. That didn’t add to the nerves, though, as he said that much of the anticipation went away once they took the field.
“Walking on the field and seeing a huge stadium is a little nerve-wracking,” Terenzi said. “Once we got out there and settled in, everything about it was just amazing.”
Nerves were expected given the circumstances. With media and photographers on the sidelines and ESPN2 televising the event nationally, this was easily the most pressure the team has ever faced.
The players were treated like professionals despite not yet reaching the high school level, something not lost on the players.
“It didn’t seem real,” said 12-year-old Christian Alacqua, of Manhasset. “They made us feel like professional players.”
“The professional teams played right after us,” said Balsamo, who chipped in 13 goals and 17 assists. “It was almost like we were one step under them.”
The Express certainly have players with outstanding potential. Cascadden, a faceoff specialist, won 90 percent of faceoffs in the final and more than 80 percent in the tournament. McCarthy’s lockdown defense shut out Primetime’s leading scorer. Goalies Will Snyder (Bay Shore) and Aiden Greene (Far Rockaway) were stalwarts between the pipes.
“We’ve been together for three years, and these guys either win or come in second in every tournament they play in,” Chanenchuk said. “We thought we would have a really good shot of competing in this tournament.”
Chanenchuk envisions more success in this group’s future. With practices twice weekly and significant training in the fall and winter months, the team is primed to compete come spring and summer.
Several players said that this championship will be hard to top, even with so many more games ahead of them in their budding careers in the sport.
“That was the best experience of my life,” Terenzi said.
“Right now, we’re the best team in the country, in the world,” Balsamo said. “But there’s always room for improvement.”