The Yorktown Huskers (18-3) fell to the West Islip Lions (21-1), 13-8, in the Class A state semis yesterday at Middletown High School.
The Lions (Section 11), who won Class A state titles in ’06 and ’07, will advance to play Orchard Park in the state finals Saturday in Rochester.
Matched up arguably the best team in the nation, Yorktown kept it close for the first half.
After falling behind 5-1 midway through the second quarter, Huskers junior attackman Remy Lieberman (three goals) scored off a pass from sophomore middie Justin Mabus. The goal sparked a 3-0 Huskers run, which Lieberman capped off with 31.2 seconds left in the first half to cut the deficit to 5-4.
West Islip, however, would answer before the end of the half.
On the ensuing faceoff, the Lions caught Yorktown shorthanded in transition. All-American attackman Nicky Galasso (three goals, one assist) finished off the break, giving the Lions a 6-4 lead heading into the break.
“The goal at the end of the half didn’t help,” Yorktown Head Coach Dave Marr said. “We were exchanging to sub and we got caught on a 3-on-2 and they scored. Looking back, that seemed to be the turning point.”
The Lions kept the Huskers at bay in the second half, never trailing by any fewer than three goals.
For the Huskers, All-American middie John Ranagan finished with three goals. All-American attackman Kevin Interlicchio notched one goal. Sophomore middie Ty Schuldt chipped in with one goal. Senior keeper Michael Bonitatibus came up with 10 saves.
For the Lions, Shane Craig led the way with four goals and one assist.
OK, now let’s break down a bit about the game.
Overall, the Lions won the turnover battle, which was the biggest factor in them pulling away in the second half.
This was most noticeable in the third quarter, as WI outscored Yorktown 4-1 to grab a commanding 10-5 lead heading into the fourth.
The Huskers threw a handful of errant passes during the stretch, which Galasso and Craig capitalized on.
“In the beginning of the game, they were making turnovers too, but we didn’t capitalize and gave the ball right back to them,” Marr said. “We did not play our best game by far. It was pretty gross.”
When the ball was on the carpet, a WI defenseman was on the spot to scoop it up and kick start transition. The sheer athleticism and speed of the Lions’ defense was a huge factor in the clearing game. Yorktown’s attack had a rough time riding them.
“The second half was very tough to watch,” Marr said. “We were working really hard and barely scratching a goal out. They were going down and getting hot shots on Michael [Bonitatibus]. If it wasn’t for Michael, it could have been 20-8.
Bonitatibus in the cage
Which brings us to our next point: Bonitatibus’ stellar play.
The Loyola-bound goalie was fearless, denying a handful of WI shots on the doorstep. He also played a vital role in the clearing game, showing his ability to handle the ball outside of the cage.
Sure, West Islip scored 13 goals, but at least 8-9 of them came from within close.
Fennessy vs. Galasso
Yorktown All-American defenseman John Fennessy did his best to keep the uber talented Galasso in check.
Despite Galasso’s final stat line, Fennessy held his own.
“He did OK,” Marr said of Fennessy. “We were trying not to slide to [Galasso] and make him play one on one because he is a very good feeder as well. We would rather him start the offense and give up a one on one goal than have him distribute eight or nine goals. Fen had his hands full and did a pretty good job. He beat him a couple times, but what are you going to do?”
Interlicchio on attack
The Hopkins-bound Interlicchio was held to one goal. West Islip’s Mike McCormack, a Yale-bound defenseman, did a solid job of containing Yorktown’s top gun.
“He didn’t seem like he had it today,” Marr said of Interlicchio. “The guy that was playing him was very good. It’s tough if you don’t have your best stuff and playing in a game like this. We just didn’t seem to be playing well all around.”
A bright spot was the play of underclassmen like Schuldt, Mabus and Lieberman.
“Ty and Justin did well and Rem made some nice plays,” Marr said. “It’s going to be a very different team next year. We lose a lot of guys. Work starts on Tuesday pretty much. Another 360 days till we do this again.”