Northeast Boys' Regional Report (June 6)
by Jonah Rosenblum | LaxMagazine.com
Eric Caliendo, St Anthony's (N.Y.)
Dillon Malloy, St. Anthony's (N.Y.)
Nick Kline, Liverpool (N.Y.)
Games to Watch
Jamesville-DeWitt (N.Y.) vs. Irondequoit (N.Y.) –
Darien (Conn.) vs. Wilton (Conn.) – June
West Islip (N.Y.) vs. Niskayuna (N.Y.) – June
1. Garden City (N.Y.), 20-0
No one can score against the Trojans, let alone defeat them. Garden City has rolled through the 2012 postseason, and it's not for lack of quality competition. The Trojans have defeated South Side (N.Y.), Long Beach (N.Y.), Wantagh (N.Y.) and Sayville (N.Y.) thus far. Three of Garden City's four postseason foes entered their matchup with the Trojans with three losses on the season. Now, each has four losses to its name.
2. Fairport (N.Y.), 21-0
Hey, you have to give the Red Raiders a round of applause. Along with Garden City (N.Y.), Fairport is one of the few unbeaten teams remaining in the region and in the country. With the exception of defending state champion Jamesville-DeWitt (N.Y.), no team has really come close to defeating Fairport this season. The Red Raiders have posted 20 straight wins on the back of a remarkable defense that shut out Orchard Park (13-5) its last time out. Next up, Fairport has to contend with one-loss Ithaca (N.Y.), which it beat 12-7 on April 14.
3. West Islip (N.Y.), 19-1
After an early loss to Chaminade (N.Y.), the Lions have roared through the rest of their schedule, compiling 17 straight wins. One of the hottest teams in the nation, West Islip edged Ward Melville (N.Y.) in its first postseason matchup, before beating Syosset (N.Y.) three days later. The Lions have relied on a simply dominant defense of late, surrendering just 18 goals in their last four contests combined. But the road is about to get tougher, as West Islip takes on its first 20-win opponent of the season in Niskayuna (N.Y.).
4. St. Anthony's (N.Y.), 16-3
Even when St. Anthony's takes a licking in the regular season, it keep on ticking into the postseason. June's darlings came up with another big postseason win over Chaminade (N.Y.), downing the Flyers, 8-6, to secure the CHSAA championship. With the exception of the two regular-season losses to Chaminade and a tight one-goal loss at Darien (Conn.), St. Anthony's was perfect on the season. The Friars also challenged themselves with contests against Golden State powerhouse La Costa Canyon (Calif.) and Empire State challenger Yorktown (N.Y.), both of which they beat. It has been a remarkably consistent run for St. Anthony's, which has lost no fewer than two games and no greater than four games in each of the past six seasons.
5. Chaminade (N.Y.), 16-2
There is a saying that the hardest thing to do in sports is to beat the same team three times in a season. No team understands the old adage better than the Chaminade, which once again came up short in its attempt to defeat St. Anthony's (N.Y.) three times in a season. History has repeated itself in an eerie manner for the Flyers, which just like last year, defeated St. Anthony's twice in the regular season, only to fall to the Friars by a close margin in the postseason. But that shouldn't take away from a remarkable season.
6. Duxbury (Mass.), 20-2
The Dragons are breathing fire right now with 13 consecutive victories. After two losses in their first 10 games, including a shaky three-goal performance against Irondequoit, they have piled up wins. Of Duxbury's 22 opponents this season, just three have losing records at the moment, underlining the strength of schedule it has undertaken in 2012. Next up for Duxbury is Franklin (Mass.), with which the Dragons are largely unfamiliar.
7. Niskayuna (N.Y.), 20-1
You have to feel for the Silver Warriors. All they have done is win all season long — at a rate somewhat unprecedented nationally — and all they have to show for it is a spot midway up our regional rankings. The issue? Quality of competition: 12 of Niskayuna's wins have come by a double-digit margin, including five wins by at least 20 goals. That issue should be partially resolved on Wednesday, when it takes on its toughest foe of the season in 19-win West Islip (N.Y.).
8. Ithaca (N.Y.), 17-1
The Little Red have come up big thus far in the postseason, most recently defeating Liverpool (N.Y.), 18-8. Ithaca has its chance at revenge Wednesday against Fairport (N.Y.), which won the team's 12-7 result in April. Regardless of what happens against the Red Raiders, this has been a very good season for Frank Welch's crew. Ithaca has already defeated Irondequoit (N.Y.), which accounted for one of its two losses last season, and has benefitted from an explosive offense, which scored 10 goals in the first half against Liverpool.
9. Salisbury (Conn.), 12-1
The Crimson Knights didn't exactly sweep away their competition at the end of May, but they kept their heads above water during a tough four-game stretch, defeating Choate (Conn.), Avon Old Farms (Conn.) and Taft School (Conn.). While Salisbury wasn't able to snap its recent skid against Deerfield Academy (Mass.), the Crimson Knights topped Brunswick School, 11-4, after the Bruins edged them last season.
10. The Governor's Academy (N.H.), 16-1
The Red Dogs played remarkable defense all season long, never surrendering more than six goals in any game, including one stretch in mid-April when they surrendered only one goal in three consecutive games. The Governor's Academy highlighted a one-loss season with an 8-1 victory over Phillips Exeter (N.H., 20-1) and a 4-3 victory over St. Sebastian (Mass., 15-2). The Red Dogs' only loss came against another one-loss squad, Middlesex. It's tough to tell where The Governor's Academy stacks up, however, as its schedule didn't include any games against top schools from the region.
Unselfish Play Pushes Fairport's Dream Season
Derek DeJoe was awfully good on the attack for Fairport — so good, in fact, that he will be suiting up for Syracuse next season. So, when he was asked to switch over to midfield, he easily could have resisted the move.
Instead, he went along with it, and his willingness has led to golden results for the Red Raiders. His switch allowed Pat VanBortle to join the attack on a more consistent basis, freeing up opportunities for VanBortle and Brian Martin, according to coach Mike Torelli.
"He put us in a position to obviously score a lot more goals," Torelli said. "People are worried about what Derek is doing and they kind of forget what Pat and Brian are doing and that is what's really helped us."
As a result of a team spirit that Torelli said is unprecedented in his experience, Fairport is off to a perfect 20-0 start to the season. Considering the difficult schedule the Red Raiders had to contend with in 2012, it's safe to say no one could have predicted this type of start.
"Early in March, our coaching staff sat down, we looked at our schedule, you look at it and you say maybe we're 12-4. Maybe we're 13-3," Torelli said. "You're playing Jamesville-DeWitt (N.Y.). You're playing Ithaca (N.Y.). You're playing Irondequoit (N.Y.), Pittsford (N.Y.) and Penfield (N.Y.). You're going, 'Wow, maybe, who knows.' And to be 20-0, we're surprised by that right now — not at all surprised by how we've played, but how well we've played together."
The Red Raiders have been led by a stout defense that surrendered 10 or more goals on just two occasions. Fairport is coming off of a 7-0 shutout of Orchard Park (N.Y.). Torelli attributed the Red Raiders' defensive success to rotating five players down low, which has allowed them to stay fresh all season long.
"We're not banged up. We're not hurt. We're going into the states here healthier than we have ever been in my career here in Fairport," Torelli said. "Usually, you get a few kids hurt here and there and we're trying to scramble but this year, the kids are fresh. We're able to wear kids down, and it has been a great thing for us this year."
Torelli knows a defense like this — players willing to come out of the game at frequent intervals and engage in a platoon-style strategy — is rare. What works in 2012 may no longer work in 2013, but he is content to simply enjoy the fruits of this season for now.
"It works this year," Torelli said. "Some years maybe it doesn't work, but this year, the kids believe in each other and what we're doing, and therefore it makes it pretty simple."
A World Beyond Lacrosse Keeps Fairport's Success in Context
To some extent, Fairport has been liberated from the sports world's obsession with winning and losing. It's not that the Red Raiders haven't won a ton of games; in fact, they've won their first 20. But they know there are more important things in life, such as life itself. They took this lesson from Blake Cognata, who has been relegated to the sideline as he battles with cancer.
As the wins piled up for Fairport, and attention centered on whether this team could pull off an undefeated season, coach Mike Torelli said his team had a very simple coping mechanism.
"Our kids focused on [Blake] and what does undefeated mean to him," Torelli said. "We haven't talked about the wins and losses at all. It has been one day at a time."
It's not always easy for a group of high-school students to understand what lies beyond the lacrosse field, but Torelli said Fairport gets it. They understand the battles they are fighting on the field are nothing compared to what their teammate is fighting off of the field.
"I have to say with this group, more than recent groups, they really, really have bought into what it means to be a team," Torelli said. "Lose a game, play a championship, those are all great, but what he's going through — that's life-changing and life-altering. He's fighting for his life. Our guys have been able to keep the lacrosse aspect much more in perspective than a lot of people would."
But the thought of a loss is particularly repulsive to Cognata, who reportedly yelled at his teammates on Tuesday, telling them he didn't want Tuesday to mark their last practice. He wants the Red Raiders' journey to continue.
The next step for Fairport will be a rematch with Ithaca (N.Y.), which the Red Raiders defeated 12-7 on April 14. It's worth nothing that last time they played, Ithaca was playing the second game of back-to-back contests. This time, the Little Red will be locked and ready, something Torelli said that his guys must be prepared for.
"You got to remember that Ithaca got off a bus the last time they played us. They played a game the night before," Torelli said. "They were a little tired and we jumped on them early, and [Wednesday] that's not going to be the case. You need to understand that they're going to come in and really bring it in the first quarter and you got to kind of weather that storm."