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Long Islanders ready for return of professional box lacrosse

The expansion Riptide debut at Nassau Coliseum this month

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Professional box lacrosse will return to Long Island on Dec. 28 when the New York Riptide, one of two expansion teams to join the National Lacrosse League this season, make their home debut against the Saskatchewan Rush at the Nassau Coliseum.

The Riptide will be Long Island’s  third attempt at professional box lacrosse after the Saints folded in 2003 and the Titans’ relocation to Orlando in 2009 after three years in the northeast. Despite a past lack of success for the sport here, Long Islanders appear to be looking forward to supporting their new neighbors.

“We’ve always been big lacrosse fans, always been box fans,” said Joe Barbieri of Bohemia, who attended the Riptide’s open scrimmage with his wife and their two sons on Nov. 2. “I used to watch the Saints here as a kid and I want to expose [my kids] to this. They watch on YouTube but have never seen a real live game.”

The NLL expansion gives Long Islanders their second professional sports franchise to support at Nassau County, and the Riptide will be the only team to play all of its home games in Nassau County while the Islanders continue to split games between the Coliseum and Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

Fans watch on as the New York Riptide hold an open practice session on Nov. 2, 2019 at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum.
Fans watch on as the New York Riptide hold an open practice session on Nov. 2, 2019 at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum.

“When I think of Long Island sports, the only pro team I think of is the Islanders,” said Victoria Onorato of Shoreham, who also attended the team’s open scrimmage. “I never knew there were different types of lacrosse. The lacrosse I’ve seen in high school isn’t the same type of lacrosse I’m seeing here. It’s very intense and physical like hockey and was actually really entertaining. With the Islanders still spending time in Brooklyn, I’m more inclined to go to see the Riptide since they’re basically playing in my backyard.”

While the Riptide are new to the area, one player is already a known commodity to local lacrosse fans. Forward Kieran McArdle, selected in the sixth round of the NLL expansion draft, grew up in Ronkonkoma and graduated from Connetquot High School in 2010 before playing collegiately at St. John’s University. He still spends time on Long Island, working with kids involved with youth lacrosse. Those who are already fans of lacrosse hope having a local player return home will bring support for Long Island’s team.

“We know Kieran McArdle from Connetquot… we think it’s awesome to have a local guy playing,” said Barbieri. “It’s a comfortable place to bring the kids and have a good time. We’re here to support Kieran and we hope that it’s successful and that it brings a lot more fans out to the Coliseum.”

Dec. 28 will be the Riptide’s regular-season debut at the  Coliseum and the first of three consecutive home games. The Riptide have nine home games scheduled this season.