Wantagh looks to finish on top

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Wantagh boys’ lacrosse began a new era this spring with high aspirations a season removed from reaching the doorstep of a championship.

Longtime assistant coach James Polo took reigns of the program after longtime head coach John Cuiffo decided to step away after 25 years leading the Warrior sidelines. Polo takes over a Wantagh team with plenty of returning players hungry for another playoff run after a heartbreaking 10-9 Class C finals loss to Cold Spring Harbor at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.

“We definitely use last year as motivating factor,” said Polo of the memories from last year’s championship game where Cold Spring Harbor stormed back from a 6-2 second half deficit. ”They want to finish on top.”

Wantagh boasts an experienced defense led by seniors Kyle Craig, Will DiMatteo and Patrick McClancy. Junior goalie Sean Paulich has shined in his new starting role with double-dig save efforts in all of Wantagh’s three wins including 14 stops in a 12-11 win at Port Washington on March 21.

“He has made some solid saves,” said Polo of Paulich, who is backed up in net by juniors Nick Conklin and Thomas Fitzpatrick.  “He is communicating well with the defense.”

The Warriors returned some key offensive weapons from last year’s 12-5 team including junior attackmen Ethan Insinga and Nick Teresky. Insinga, a Binghamton commit, is off to a fast start with 19 goals in Wantagh’s first five games. The Rutgers-bound Teresky also tallied seven assists in Wantagh’s 15-8 Conference C-1 opener against neighborhood rival Seaford on April 2.

Freshman attackman Tyler Martini is an additional force near the net quickly learning to shine at the high school level with two early-season goals.

Junior midfielder Thomas von Bargen, a LIU-Post commit, is primed for a big spring with 13 goals entering the week including the game-winner in the Port Washington victory.  Fellow junior Ryan Carlo also adds firepower to the midfield unit after transferring from Catholic power Chaminade and stepped up with a late clutch tying goal in the Warriors’ 13-12 overtime win against Kellenberg on March 26. His younger brother Sean Carlo and Troy Donaghy have also stepped up as freshmen midfielders with bright futures ahead.

Junior Anthony DiMatteo has provided Wantagh with plenty of extra offensive possessions with dominance on faceoffs. The Hofstra commit won 17-of-19 faceoffs in the Seaford win.

“They have an internal drive that they hate to lose and that is a beautiful thing to coach,” said Polo, who credits assistant coaches Lou Lago and Lenny LaTouche with driving much of the early season success. “We want to be clicking on all cylinders at the end of the season.”

Wantagh (4-1) battles Bethpage at home Thursday at 4:30 p.m. before heading to North Shore on April 16. Both teams along with Cold Spring Harbor and Locust Valley could be future playoff competition for the Warriors in their quest for a return to the championship stage.