A season removed from a disappointing Nassau Class B quarterfinal defeat following a near-perfect regular season, Wantagh’s boys’ lacrosse team enters the 2014 campaign full of motivation.
The Warriors were riding high entering the 2013 playoffs before stumbling on the quarterfinal stage to red-hot North Shore, 12-8, marking the first time Wantagh did not reach at least the semifinals since 2009.
“They want to get back to being one of the top seeds,” said Wantagh head coach John Cuiffo, who guided the Warriors to a state title in 2001. “We want to be one of the top seeds and advance in the playoffs as far as we can.”
Wantagh lost leading scorer Brandon Watson, who is now starring at Nassau Community College, but returns a host of other offensive talent led by senior attackman Kyle Cain. “He is a team captain and has really stepped up,” said Cuiffo of Cain, a three-year starter and is slated to play on the collegiate level at St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia. “This is his team.”
Joining Cain on the starting attack unit are senior Nick Rodin and freshman Casey Murphy. The midfield is anchored by SUNY Cortland-bound senior Mike Ferraro along with sophomores Dylan Beckwith and Kyle Sliwak.
On defense, Wantagh is led by 6-foot-1 junior Ralph Sommer, who has committed to Marist. “He has a great stick,” said Cuiffo of Sommer. “He covers the other team’s number one offensive player.”
Wantagh’s long-pole unit also includes Bobby Ciasullo and Chris Burke. Behind the defense is senior goalie Robert Beshlian, who is slated to play at Division II power Limestone next year. Backing Beshlian up in the cage is sophomore Bobby Casey, who has already verbally committed to Hofstra.
A significant aspect of lacrosse Cuiffo expects to be key in 2014 is faceoffs, which often dictate how many possessions a team earns a game and were a major reason why the Warriors fell to North Shore in the playoffs when 21-of-23 draws were lost. Taking faceoffs this season are sophomores Richie Russo and Mark Buchner along with Beckwith and Ferraro.
Cuiffo expects Garden City and Manhasset to be the top teams in Class B, with stiff competition also from Long Beach, North Shore and Lynbrook. A game circled on the Warriors’ calendar is this Saturday at home against Garden City, the eight-time defending county champions who defeated Wantagh in the 2012 Class B title game. Faceoff is set for 11 a.m.
Honoring Fallen Warrior
Wantagh continues to honor the memory of former boys’ lacrosse player Scott DeVerna, who tragically died in his sleep in August of 1999.
Since DeVerna’s sudden passing, Wantagh has selected a player each season to wear his old jersey number 22. Cain was picked for this honor in 2014, and DeVerna’s family will be on hand for a ceremony during the season. Former Wantagh players have also chosen to wear 22 while playing in college including Yale’s Brandon Mangan and Hofstra’s John Reicherter.
“It really means a lot to his family,” said Cuiffo, who coached DeVerna in the late 90s. “It is very special.”