South Side (10-1) maintains its focus


When a team finds itself dominating a new conference called the Power League – a group of nine boys’ lacrosse powerhouses separated out and pitted against each other so as to increase the parity in Nassau – swagger is to be expected, while complacency could be a pitfall.

South Side, Nassau Power League’s leader at 8-1 (10-1 overall), seems to have sidestepped either of these consequences, dismantling top foes and settling decades-old scores in matter-of-fact fashion – a steamroller on cruise control, its drivers focused solely on the road. And with less and less need to check the rearview.

“Our goals are still in front of us; we have to stay hungry,” said South Side coach Steve DiPietro, whose players also have said they are wary of overconfidence. “This team believes it can go far, but we have to take care of business.”

Aside from a single quarter of play – the fourth period at Wantagh which saw the Cyclones blanked while allowing four goals, leading to the team’s lone setback, 15-11, on April 10 – there’s been little sign of South Side taking its foot off the gas.

Paced by attackman Michael Aiello’s team-leading 44 points – ranked fourth in Power League – on 26 goals and 18 assists, and midfielder Owen West’s 25 goals and eight assists, South Side’s offense ranks first in the league scoring 12.81 goals per game.

With his third hat trick in as many games, sole non-senior starter Cullen Lynch, a junior, reached 20 tallies during South Side’s 13-4 victory over Carey on Monday, tying fellow midfielder Cole DiPietro (18 goals, 12 assists) for third on the team with 30 points.

“One of our focuses has been to have a lot of offensive balance,” DiPietro said. “Also, our veteran leadership has been tremendous. It’s really helped us from the start, especially through the early part of the schedule.”

After downing Power League rival Cold Spring Harbor to end March, snapping a winless streak against the reigning repeat state Class D champion dating to 2007, South Side opened April with a 7-4 league win against defending state two-time Class B champion Garden City, quenching a drought that had lasted since 2006. Yet another streak was ended April 19, as South Side sent nonleague foe Somers to its first defeat after the Tuskers of Lincolndale had opened 8-0.

A longstanding run that hasn’t seen an end is that of elite seasons turned in by Michael Melkonian – an Honorable Mention All-American last year. The South Side midfielder’s 164 faceoff wins rank second in Nassau, while his 107 ground balls rank fourth.

Behind stout work from defenseman Patrick Mullin and Chris Diez, South Side goalkeeper Michael Muscarella has quieted doubters. The first-year starter had 13 saves in the Cyclones’ 7-4 win at Garden City, the 17-year-drought-ending victory April 4 that DiPietro said was his team’s most impressive.

“[Garden City is] such a historic program,” DiPietro said. “Our goalie outplayed theirs. That win gave our kids a belief we’re capable of doing something special.”

Added DiPietro: “We’re know we’re not finished, though. There’s still work to do.”