The East Hampton boys lacrosse team, a program that has experienced success in the past, had a down year last season, winning just four games. But with several strong players returning to the team, and a nice stable of young and talented players joining the ranks, head coach Mike Vitulli is hopeful that his squad can take steps to improve this year.
The Bonackers lost only three key seniors to graduation: starting midfielder and captain Drew Griffiths, who is now playing at SUNY-Plattsburgh, and defenders James Budd and Pat McGuirk.
East Hampton has an experienced net minder in senior Mike Jara, who started in goal last year. Junior Daley Pagano, a call-up from the junior varsity, will back Jara up this season and could see time in the net, according to Vitulli.
Whoever is in goal will have a pair of experienced defenders in front of him, in junior Joe Gengarelly, a Pierson student, as well as senior Alex Serna, who was a key player on East Hampton’s county championship boys soccer team in the fall. Vitulli also expects JV call-up Nicky Quiroz, a junior, to see plenty of time on defense. “Those three will get the majority of the playing time,” Vitulli said of Gengarelly, Serna and Quiroz.
The midfield will be anchored by returning junior Cortland Heneveld, who was the Division II Rookie of the Year last season, as well as seniors John Pizzo and Jamie Wolf, whom Vitulli said he is expecting to provide “stability and leadership.” Vitulli added that he expects Heneveld to provide more scoring than he did last year as well.
On attack, East Hampton returns an All-County player in Pierson student Drew Harvey, who led the team last year with 48 points. “We’re expecting him to be our offensive leader,” Vitulli said. “He’s the quarterback of our offense—a lot of plays run through him, and he’s our decision maker with the ball.”
Junior R.J. Notel will be another key player on attack, along with freshmen Regis O’Neil and Jack Schlecher, who were the leading scorers on the junior varsity last season as eighth-graders.
Vitulli said he expects Wolf and junior Tyler Shaw to be his team’s top face-off men, although he said he’s hoping the entire team can show improvement in that crucial aspect of the game.
Vitulli will get help this year from new assistant coach Neil Falkenhan, a Bonac alum who played defense at Division I Siena University.
Youth is in abundance on this year’s Bonac team, especially considering that there is no junior varsity squad this year. Vitulli said the decision was made to cut out the JV team this season because of slightly low numbers. Although there were technically enough players in the program to field both junior varsity and varsity squads, Vitulli said he didn’t want to see either team stretched too thin.
Vitulli is cautiously optimistic about what his team can accomplish this year. He acknowledges that with so many young players, there will be a learning curve, but he’s hoping his team can improve upon its 4-12 showing last season.
“Our goal is to be around .500,” he said. “We think we have a young team that has some talent. It’s very inexperienced, so we’re hoping to get better as the year goes on.
“Offensively, we’re young,” he continued. “Defensively, we’re older. We have young guys that have the stick skills, and older guys who are more physical.”
East Hampton got the season started last week in a 24-team scrimmage tournament held at Bellport High School, competing against Miller Place, Middle Country and Center Moriches. The tournament raised $11,000 for the HEADstrong Foundation, which raises awareness for blood cancer and honors the memory of former Hofstra University lacrosse player Nicholas “Head” Colleluori, who died in 2006 after a battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
The Bonackers will officially kick off the season with a non-league game at North Babylon on Friday, March 22, at 4:30 p.m. During the course of the season, East Hampton will have tough battles when it faces powerhouse Comsewogue, which Vitulli said is “far and away the hardest game on the schedule,” as well as Miller Place, Westhampton Beach and Mount Sinai, all of whom are ranked in the top eight in Division II in the preseason. Vitulli expects his team to be competitive and have a good chance to win in every other matchup on the schedule. East Hampton was ranked 17th out of 22 teams.