An SUV parked at Bay Shore High School last week was as obvious as a billboard. Scrawled on the rear window in blue and yellow paint: # 1 WI Lax NY State Champs. That’s right, West Islip was in the house.
But these rock stars of boys lacrosse needed no introduction. West Islip won its second straight state Class A championship – and fourth in five seasons – with a 13-5 victory over western New York power Fairport on June 12, and claimed an even bigger prize in the process. The Lions were also crowned mythical national champs, according to LaxPower.com.
So the large contingent of West Islip players – freshmen, sophomores and juniors – cut an intimidating profile among the hundreds of fellow Suffolk lacrosse hopefuls who showed up at Bay Shore to try out for both the Long Island Showcase and the Olympic-style festival known as the Empire State Games.
“It’s been exciting after winning a state championship,” West Islip sophomore goaltender Jack Kelly said. “And then trying out for the Empire team? Real exciting.”
When state budget concerns killed the Empire State Games a year ago, the Nassau and Suffolk coaches association scrambled to create the Long Island Showcase, all-star teams divided by grade and county. It was an instant hit.
One year later the two events are sharing resources. The coaches associations have always played a key role in selecting the Empire squad. Now the athletes who don’t make the Empire team can still earn a spot on the Showcase roster. A record 680 teenagers showed up at tryouts last week at Syosset and Bay Shore high schools for the chance.
“I’m not too nervous,” West Islip junior midfielder Mike Diggle said at a tryout on June 16th. “I don’t know if I’ll make it or not. But I don’t think about the odds. You just focus on how well you can play.”
Diggle didn’t make the cut. But in Suffolk, 113 athletes were invited back for a second round of tryouts on Monday, June 21. Eight West Islip players were among them, including star goalie Kyle Turri and his backup, Kelly.
“We’re close,” Kelly said. “We respect each other and support each other. He’s one. I’m two. I support him.”
That’s all well and good on the West Islip lacrosse field. But at Bay Shore on Monday, the two were rivals. The backup and the star were still very much alive in the quest for an Empire jersey.
No big deal. If West Islip is synonymous with anything over the last decade, it’s competition. After dropping the season opener, the Lions won 21 in a row and dominated in the playoffs. That confidence was evident at tryouts.
“The first day was mass chaos. It’s a lot of people,” West Islip junior midfielder Mike Sagl said. “The second tryout – it’s fun to play with guys who have top skills and see what you can do against them.”
Despite a turf field which seemed to soak up the heat and wear down the players, the West Islip contingent made its presence felt. The blue and yellow helmets each donned were impossible to miss. They always seemed to be around the goal.
“I feel we have the edge,” said Sagl, a two-year starter. “We just finished playing last week. All these other guys are a little rusty. It’s a little tiring in one respect but pretty cool in another.”
The field will be pared to the top 36 players in each county on Thursday, June 24 at 8:30 p.m. at Veterans Park in East Northport. The Empire State Games team, a 20-man roster with 10 alternates, will be announced the next day.
The Long Island squad goes for its fifth straight gold medal at the Empire State Games in Buffalo from July 21-25. Don’t be surprised if one or more West Islip players are in the middle of it all. It’s what they do.