If the past two years are any indication of the Eastport South Manor boys lacrosse team’s progression, then the Sharks could very well find themselves in the Suffolk County Class B finals later this spring.
After reaching the playoffs for the first time in program history back in 2010, ESM made the playoffs again last season after finishing third in Suffolk County’s Division II with an 11-3 record (13-3 overall) and 158.56 power points. The Sharks lost to Shoreham/Wading River in a close 12-10 contest in the county semifinals.
With a number of players returning, the Sharks have the potential to vie for a county title this season.
“Our long-term goal is to get as deep as we can into the playoffs, but right now our goal is to get better,” ESM head coach Kevin Huff said. “We improved last year from the year before so, hopefully, we just keep on improving.”
ESM did lose a number of players to graduation. All-County player Alan Henderson, who is now playing at Lehigh University, graduated last June as did long-time varsity player Colin Flaherty, who missed most of last season with an injury but was an All-Division player in 2010. Also gone are All-County players Derek Sganga and Brent Thomas, and starting goalie Robby Sterbens.
Returning for his senior season is attack/midfielder Ryan Curley, who was an honorable mention All-American last year. He is expected to pace the Sharks’ offense this season. Curley, one of five team co-captains, was already selected to appear in the All-American Showcase at the end of the season; only 10 players from Suffolk County are invited to play in the game.
Also returning are All-County players Tyler Aki, Matt Prokesch and Joey Amendola, who will join Curley as co-captains. Aki should be one of the team’s more prolific goal scorers while Prokesch will also help out on the offensive end as a midfielder. Amendola will be one of the team’s top defensemen.
Ryan Brisson is the team’s fifth and final co-captain and should continue to help out as a midfielder. Midfielder Tom Kenneally is also returning as are defenseman Frankie Denicola and Will Henderson, the latter of whom will take over starting goalie duties following the departure of Sterbens.
Although he had minimal playing time on the varsity squad last season, Patrick Kenneally, the young brother to Tom, should see an expanded role this season. Tyler Weiss and Matt Ragimierski are up from the junior varsity and could have an impact.
The preseason rankings list the Sharks as the third best squad in Division III, and Huff thinks that his younger players are going to have to set the pace if they are going to have a successful season.
“Our youth has to step forward and play a depth role for us,” he said. “I’ve scheduled some early, hard scrimmages to hopefully get them older quicker but we have good players with good leadership that should help them out.”
Because of their high preseason ranking, the Sharks will play a very tough schedule. Comsewogue is the top seed entering the season and a perennial powerhouse while Shoreham/Wading River is ranked second. Shoreham has moved back down to Class C, so it won’t factor into the Class B playoffs; still, it is a team that could help the Sharks pick up a bunch of power points if they can knock them off.
Huff also said that cross-town rival Westhampton Beach has improved over the past few years and should continue to do so this season. He noted that Miller Place and Sayville both boast up-and-coming Class B teams.
“We’re not going to have any room for mistakes; there are no weak opponents on our schedule,” he said. “Being ranked toward the top means we’ll be playing all top teams, but that’s the way we want it.”
The Sharks visited Connetquot (Division I) for a non-league game on Tuesday and will play another non-league contest on Friday at home against Sachem East (Division I) at 7 p.m. ESM will play its first Division II game on Wednesday, March 28, at home against Huntington. The game starts at 4:30 p.m.