One of the most frustrating knocks on a good team is a moment in which that team underperformed and lost in a fashion unbefitting of its talent. The road back to prosperity is a long and arduous one. Extra hours in the weight room, on the field through any and all conditions, and studying hours of game film ensue.
This is the situation the North Shore boys’ lacrosse team was put in after an upset in the very first round of the playoffs last season. The fifth-seeded Vikings lost a one-goal game to 12th-seeded Friends Academy. This year, rather than proving others wrong, North Shore was more worried about proving itself right. With a core of talented and experienced lacrosse players, the Vikings reloaded for another go at the Nassau County Class C playoffs.
The Vikings, once again seeded fifth, opened up with 14-3 victory over Wheatley/Carle Place. The quarterfinals matchup ended with a 12-5 win over a tough Bethpage team in which they avenged their loss to from the regular season. The Vikings were then bested by Cold Spring Harbor, 13-7, on May 22 at Hofstra University in the semifinals. Just weeks before in the regular season, North Shore beat Cold Spring Harbor on the road for the first time in years.
Vikings head coach Aaron Kozlowski knew Cold Spring Harbor would come out with an elevated sense of urgency. “We knew Cold Spring Harbor would be motivated after we beat them in the regular season,” he said. “The difference was their guy won 22 of 25 faceoffs. In the fourth quarter, they scored off of three consecutive faceoffs wins that lead to goals.”
Harbor’s Andrew DeGennaro was the faceoff man that caused North Shore headaches. They also had North Shore’s most effective playmakers locked down in schemes specific to those players. “They locked down Steven Grabher and Forrest Demetri,” Kozlowski said. “Will Feldman and Ryan Murphy then had to step up in their roles, and they did well, it just wasn’t enough.”
North Shore’s Dom Calderoni finished with 4 goals in the first-round playoff matchup, and his season-high 6 goals against Bethpage in the quarterfinals. He scored 2 in the semifinal matchup. James Kahn made 10 saves on the day.
Grabher, one of the team’s captains and seniors, played his last game in the maroon and white. “He’s not particularly satisfied, but he was happy to lead his group back to the playoffs and play at Hofstra in his senior season,” Kozlowski said. Grabher finishes his high school career with over 200 points and, more importantly, was a constant standard of effort and positive mentality for his teammates since his JV days in 7th and 8th grade. “He, like all of our seniors, moved this program another step forward,” Kozlowski said. “They left this program, but elevated it and showed that example to hand the torch to the next generation. Steven Grabher was the leader of that.”
The Vikings started to play their best lacrosse when it counted most: late in the season. “I think we peaked and played our best lacrosse in the last weeks of May, which is the goal,” Kozlowski said. “I think we’re talented, and I know the guys that are coming back are aware of the effort it takes to get to where we’ve gotten, but now know how much more it will take to get to the championship.”