The South Fork Islanders are ready to start their inaugural season.
The varsity boys lacrosse team—made up of student athletes from the Bridgehampton, East Hampton, Pierson, Ross and Southampton school districts—was created during the offseason after many of the schools struggled to be competitive or even failed to field their own teams. The creation of one team will help in a number of ways, according to head coach Matt Babb, who has coached boys lacrosse for the past eight years at Southampton, which is considered the host school.
“The combining puts us in a better position to develop players on the JV and field a more competitive team on the varsity,” he said. “One of our goals is to have as many kids playing at the appropriate level as possible. We now have 53 players for the JV and varsity.”
He added that each school will still have its own modified, or junior high, teams.
After months of talk of the South Fork team, now comes the actual time to put everything together on the field, and Babb is confident the team has what it takes to be successful.
The South Fork offense will be led by Pierson senior midfielder Jack Brown, Ross junior middie Kai Partcher-Charles, and sophomore attackmen Connor Rozzi of Southampton and Brian Damm of East Hampton.
“Our strength this year will be a more balanced offense,” Babb said. “Last year we had only a couple of players that could put pressure on opposing defenses. If one of those players was taken away we became easy to defend. This year, we feel we will be able to not only maintain possessions, but also attack defenses in a variety of ways with both our attack and midfield. All six offensive players on the field will be a threat to score.”
The Islanders should also field an athletic defense, according to Babb, led by Pierson senior goalie Bradley Toole, junior defenseman Shane O’Dwyer of East Hampton and senior long-stick midfielder Charlie Bedard of Southampton.
Last season, a combined Southampton and Pierson team—Bridgehampton, East Hampton and Ross didn’t have varsity teams—went 3-11 overall, but was voted as the most improved team out of Suffolk County Class D schools. With the combining of the five districts, South Fork is now considered a Class B team, but Babb says the combining of the schools has provided the team something none of the schools have had in a long time—depth.
“We played tough and were competitive in a lot of games [last season], but ultimately fell victim to lack of depth, sometimes entering a game with only 13 or 14 players,” he explained. “We now have a complete roster with sufficient depth at all positions. With this depth we have had more competitive practices as players now have to compete for their position.
“We are still a young team with three sophomores and a freshman projected to start, with many more getting quality playing time,” Babb added. “[But] our goal is to achieve at least a .500 record.”
There was a realignment this season in both boys and girls lacrosse. For the boys, Divisions II and III from last season were combined to form one, large Division II—which includes Class B, C and D schools—and all teams are power ranked. The Islanders will play a number of different teams on their 13-game schedule, including Center Moriches, East Islip, Elwood/John Glenn and Kings Park, just to name a few. The top six teams in each class qualify for the playoffs.
South Fork hosted a scrimmage against Westhampton Beach on Monday before playing in its first official game, a non-league contest at Copiague, on Friday, March 24, at 5:30 p.m. The Islanders are scheduled to host their first Division II game a week later on March 31 against Harborfields at 5 p.m. Although Southampton will host the majority of the South Fork games, there are also games scheduled at the Powwow Fairgrounds in Shinnecock and at East Hampton High School.
While it’s been a lot of hard work for all schools involved to put together the South Fork team in time for this spring, there has been some fun with it. The Islanders mascot name was suggested by a few players on a cold, Thursday night during open play, along with a vision of the classic New York Islanders logo. Many of the coaches and players thought the Islanders name kept in line with the nautical theme from the school’s other mascot names, such as the Mariners and Whalers.
Babb put the idea of the Islanders team name through Southampton Athletic Director Darren Phillips, who mentioned it to the other athletic directors, and all agreed it was fitting. Although Babb heard that East Hampton Athletic Director Joe Vasile-Cozzo wanted to make one thing clear; he’s still a New York Ranger ice hockey fan.