BOYS LACROSSE PREVIEW: ‘Dr.’ Guadagnino brings his practice to Riverhead

by |
03/23/2011 10:25 AM |

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Dan Paulos is one of Riverhead's four returning starters.

The lacrosse doctor is in.

Vic Guadagnino is a lacrosse coach, but he might also be viewed as something of a lacrosse doctor, treating a school’s lacrosse ills. Guadagnino, 40, was an assistant coach in the early years of the Shoreham-Wading River High School boys varsity lacrosse team where he was greatly influenced by Wildcats Coach Tom Rotanz and his former assistant coach, Mike Delia.

From there Guadagnino went to William Floyd, which had never reached the playoffs and won only six games in the four years prior to his arrival in 2000. In 10 years as William Floyd’s coach, Guadagnino posted 101 wins and took the Colonials to the playoffs eight straight years. He was the Division I Coach of the Year in 2005, the same year in which he coached the Long Island scholastic team to a gold medal in the Empire State Games.

Last year Guadagnino was an assistant coach for Dowling College, which reached the NCAA Division II semifinals.

The next stop in Guadagnino’s coaching career is in Riverhead, where his challenge is to build up a program that has never produced a playoff team in its nine-year varsity history. During that time the Blue Waves have had two winning seasons and produced a career record of 49-86. Tony Lawrence, who had been Riverhead’s only coach since the varsity team’s inception in 2003, resigned after last season, opening the way for Guadagnino’s arrival.

“When I left Floyd, I felt like, do I still have it?” Guadagnino said. “When I came to Riverhead I felt I got it and more.”

Guadagnino is under no illusions. He takes over a team that went 3-13 last year and is seeded 20th among Suffolk County Division I’s 24 teams. He knows progress takes time, even for a team with 18 seniors.

“They want to do things very fast and they want success fast, but I think they’re slowly catching on that they are in the building process for everything that’s going to happen, and they’re taking pride in it,” Guadagnino, sitting in a makeshift office that also serves as an equipment room, said after a scrimmage with the Rocky Point Eagles last Thursday. “It does not happen overnight.”

Guadagnino said it is a plus that the previous coaching staff did a “phenomenal” job in building numbers and drawing interest in Riverhead lacrosse.

The Blue Waves do not return much in the way of varsity experience, with the exception of four returning senior starters: middies Mario Carrera, Dan Paulos and Rodney Rollins, and defenseman Owen Keupp. Carrera, who won about 76 percent of the face-offs he took last season, has signed a national letter of intent to play for St. John’s University next year.

Among the other players expected to see action are: goalie Cody Haas, defensemen Dan McKillop, Dan DeCabia and Sean Harkin, middies Charles Bartlett, Mike Maiorana, Billy Goode, Mike Curaba, Ryan Bitzer and Keith Jefferson, and attackman Dylan Kelly.

Guadagnino said he is up for the challenge of the task at hand.

“We’re [seeded] 20 and we have to work on gaining and moving up from number 20,” he said. “What I’m looking to achieve this year is to not finish 20. Nineteen isn’t the most exciting position, but it is ahead of 20. So, anything we can move to ahead of where we’re starting is a success. Any improvement is good.”

He added, “If the seniors at the end of the year feel they achieved something that they wanted to achieve, I’d be happy about that.”

In baseball, teams often use the beginning of the season to cram together as many scrimmages as possible. Early spring weather, unpredictable as it is, makes actually playing each scrimmage an iffy proposition.

Lacrosse teams, immune to rain, don’t have the same issue. But it doesn’t stop Shoreham-Wading River Coach Tom Rotanz from packing his preseason schedule with scrimmage after scrimmage. Beginning March 17, the Wildcats began a stretch of six scrimmages before a tournament April 2, ultimately leading to the league opener April 5. It’s a philosophy Rotanz has long employed, choosing to play his non-league games throughout the year rather than at the beginning of the season.

“We’re constantly trying to go against really good teams and try to find our weaknesses and correct them,” Rotanz said. “I’d rather just keep on working on playing real good teams in scrimmages.”

The Wildcats, a perennial top team in Division II, bring another strong team into the season this year. Shoreham finished 12-6 last year and lost to Hauppauge in the Class B playoffs.

The Wildcats return their leading scorer from a year ago in sophomore Timmy Rotanz. A lefty, he’ll play on attack along with three-year starter Connor Drost, Tom Rotanz and Paul Curran, all of whom are seniors.

In the midfield they return juniors Trevor Brosco and Dylan Gorman along with seniors Mike Malave, Peter Gersbeck and Kris Miller, who is a lefty.

On the defensive end junior Dylan Bates and senior Brendan Hickey will play long pole. Junior Chris Mahoney and seniors C. J. Higgins, Kerry Craig and Brandon Warner will also anchor the defense.

In goal the Wildcats will turn to junior Tyler Lutjen.

Rotanz said Lutjen got a lot of reps in goal during the summer.

“He absolutely blossomed,” he said.

Joe Werkmeister contributed to this article.

[email protected]



5 Comment

  • Lets not glorify what one person was able to accomplish and another was not. It’s ridiculous how this article makes it seem as if “G” is taking over a broken program. These kids were taught correctly under Coach Tony Lawrence. He taught all the skills and is an outstanding Coach, his dedication was year round from the PAL level to Varsity. I welcome “G” as the new coach, he is outstanding. I am just stating that it is a shame that parents play politics and pointed their fingers at coach Lawrence for the program’s failures. Looking back, it is high school lacrosse, not the Olympics where winning becomes everything. All the proper skills were taught. Any former player will verify this. It is impossible for a player to buy into a coach and his system when their parents are bad mouthing them. Best of luck Blue Waves lacrosse

  • I agree totally with the former player. I have followed Riverhead Lacrosse since its inception. All you have to do is look at the number of players under Coach Lawrence that went on to play at the college level. Some even received a national championship ring for playing college lacrosse. Others are currently coaching at the college level now. I don’t believe that can be said for any other student athlete from Riverhead. The win loss column certainly does not do the program, the athletes or the former coach justice. Many players over the years were high caliber players. Unfortunately there have only been a few on the team at any given time. Other players who were starters might not have even made a team in a district like Shoreham. Your West Islips and Ward Melvilles are loaded with kids that have been playing since a young age. Riverhead is just starting to turn out kids who have played since 3rd or 4th grade. Also, many of Riverhead’s athletes are multi-sport players and cannot commit the time that the elite players from the stronger programs do. You can speak to many former players and parents who will absolutely tell you that Coach Lawrence went the extra mile getting their kids into college on lacrosse scholarships. He would hop in the car and take kids and their parents to the colleges to meet the coaches and athletic directors. I can’t say to many of Riverhead’s coaches have done that. I wish Coach G and the current players nothing but the best. Go Blue Waves!

  • Sounds like Dr. G has a new prognosis for the team this season. What happened to all that talk in this town about this team finally going to the playoffs because “eveything he touches turns to gold.” Now being moved up in rank from 20th to 19th is going to be a very successful season? I’m pretty sure the 19th spot doesn’t qualify for the playoffs anymore than the 20th spot. I wonder if these parents who only care about wins and losses will bring up a malpractice lawsuit against the Dr. if this team finishes 19th and doesn’t make the playoffs?

  • Unless Guadagnino is a psychiatrist, and he is coming to fix parent mental issues, Riverhead will continue to suffer. That’s right, the problem isn’t the players or the coaching, it’s the unrealistic expectations of parents. Just because you live on Long Island, doesn’t mean you can be a lacrosse powerhouse. Riverhead has had a program for nine years. This town gave the previous coach the herculean task of making their high school program competitive with the other schools in their division. West Islip is just one example. How many years has their program been in existence? How about their youth program? Because the bottom line on lacrosse dominance begins at the youth level, with parents who played wanting to give their children the skills they need. Anybody in Riverhead fit that bill? No. And there are Upstate schools in this Division, rightly called the toughest in HS sports. They’ve got Natives who play, and Canadian kids coming over the border to play….blah blah blah. You see, there are plenty of obstacles in Riverhead’s way if their parents are doing everything right. That’s why I’m wishing Riverhead good luck on the upcoming season, but the “doctor” they need is the one who cures intolerance and arrogance in the parents.

  • Looks like your “Doctor” has killed the patient.