Coming into last season, the Shoreham-Wading River boys lacrosse team’s slogan centered around “the wait for eight.” That referred to their eighth county championship, which had been elusive after winning seven straight ending in 2007.
For the group of seniors who came up with coach Tom Rotanz from their earliest days in school, it was their final opportunity to make their mark on the program.
The seniors seized the opportunity, leading the Wildcats to a 17-3 season and Class B county championship.
Even after losing a dozen seniors, the Wildcats return this season primed to make another run at a county title and possibly more.
The Wildcats enter the season as the No. 1 seed in Division II, which as the defending champions will make them a prime target for every team on the schedule.
“I told the kids it’s a credit to them that we can graduate 12 seniors and come back [as the No. 1],” Rotanz said. “These kids worked hard to maintain that tradition of being well represented in the county.”
The Wildcats are seeded at the top for good reason. They return a talented core with a Division-I player anchoring each part of the field.
Junior Tim Rotanz, an All-American last year who has already committed to Maryland, returns on attack. Senior Trevor Brosco, who’s headed to Notre Dame next fall, anchors the midfield. Ohio State-bound Chris Mahoney leads the defense and between the pipes senior Tyler Lutjen, who will play for Siena next year, returns as the starter.
“I’d say the expression is we’re strong up the middle,” Rotanz said. “We have one standout at each position with a number of players who are complements and they really add to the depth of the team.”
On attack the Wildcats feature one of the top high school players in the country in Tim Rotanz. As a sophomore last year he led Long Island in scoring with 110 points (68 goals, 42 assists). In three years on varsity he already has 218 career points, putting him on pace to become Shoreham’s all-time leader in career points this season. Liam Cerveny, a 2002 graduate, has the school record of 271 career points.
While Rotanz will be the focus of an opposing defense, the Wildcats have two other first-year varsity starters who should be able to contribute offensively. Senior James Higgins, a lefty like Rotanz, will play alongside sophomore Hunter Hayes.
Tom Rotanz said Higgins is very quick, has good vision and is a strong dodger. Hayes is very good at getting open, Rotanz said.
“So you got Timmy and James who drive hard to the cage and another kid who plays off ball exceptionally well,” Rotanz said.
In the midfield the Wildcats return Dylan Gorman, Anthony Naso and Dan Malave alongside Brosco. Freshman Ryan Bray also has a chance to become the first ninth-grader to ever start for Shoreham.
“He plays very good defense, great on ground balls, shoots lefty and righty,” Rotanz said. “He has incredible poise out there.”
The Wildcats have a senior core on defense, led by Mahoney, Dylan Bates, Mike Savino and Joe Longo.
Mahoney is a defenseman who can create on offense when the opportunities are there.
“Clearing the ball he’s an offensive weapon and covering guys he’s a takeway guy,” Rotanz said. “He’s so big and athletic, it’s rare to have someone like that.”
Lutjen anchors the defense in the goal. He a strong season last year and has emerged as a leader of the team.
“The players really rally around him,” Rotanz said. “He’s quiet off the field and very vocal on the field.”
The Wildcats will face the usual brutal schedule, which includes a non-league home game against Garden City in a rematch of last year’s Long Island Championship, which the Trojans won. The April 28 game will the Wildcats’ cancer fundraiser game and will be aired live on MSG Varsity, Rotanz said.
The Wildcats begin their first scrimmages this week and are set to open the regular season March 28 at home against Hauppauge. The Wildcats will have no shortage of big rivarly home games. Among the teams that travel to Shoreham this year are Rocky Point, Comsewogue, Sayville, Huntington and Bayport-Blue Point.