CLASS C SEMIFINALS | WILDCATS 14, KNIGHTS 3
After the Shoreham-Wading River boys lacrosse team dispatched Elwood-John Glenn, 14-3, in Thursday’s Suffolk County Class C semifinal playoff game, the squad’s 11 seniors gathered with the coaches for a group photo commemorating their final game on their home field at Shoreham-Wading River High School.
Stretched out before them was The Banner. A blue and gold, vinyl reminder — emblazoned with “SWR LAX” and GO WILDCATS — of just how far this program has come.
Wildcats coach Tom Rotanz gave a brief history of The Banner to the assembled, noting that it came into being in the first year of the varsity lacrosse program, 1994, created by a set of parents, the Messinas, who figured a banner would help give the fledgling team some much-needed recognition.
“I was born in 1994,” one player remarked, and all of the adults within earshot immediately felt older than they already are.
“We only had 14, 15 kids, and we played on one of the side fields,” Rotanz recalled. “Back then, that’s the only thing that was good, was that banner. I think in the first two years we were 3 and 29. My first year was the second year and we were 1-15, and we scored 38 goals for the entire season. And we scored 14 in one game against Wyandanch. We were shut out I think four straight games. I was thinking, this is gonna be terrible.”
Eventually, things changed, to the tune of eight Suffolk County titles and two state championships. The top-ranked Wildcats (14-3) will go for their ninth Suffolk championship when they face off against No. 2 Bayport-Blue Point in the Class C final Wednesday at 3 p.m. at Stony Brook University.
The Banner, though, remains constant, passed down from senior class to senior class, to be unfurled at the final home game and other memorable moments.
“Now it’s got so much tradition to it,” Rotanz said, adding that while the team has moved from a side field to the main field, complete with a sound system, a scoreboard and tremendous fan support, the most important thing is the number of players who have come through the program and gone on to have continued success.
“You look at them and you see them all doing well, and they’re either coaching in college or playing at the college level,” Rotanz said, adding that his son, Tom, will be playing for Dowling College in the NCAA Division II championship game against Limestone College this Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. “All 12 seniors from last year’s team played this year in college. So it’s pretty neat.”
Trevor Brosco scored five goals and had two assists to lead the Wildcats attack against Glenn. James Higgins scored four goals with one assist and Tim Rotanz had three goals and an assist. Ryan Bray and Dylan Gorman also scored for Shoreham. Brosco has 38 goals and 15 assists on the season, while Rotanz has 38 goals and 36 assists.
Goaltender Tyler Lutjen finished with 10 saves, including a couple of point-blank shots in the second quarter that helped the Wildcats maintain its early lead.
Glenn kept the game close early, trailing 3-2 with less than three minutes left in the second quarter. “Early on, it was a little closer, balls weren’t bouncing our way,” said Brosco. “But we stayed on hustle and eventually we started picking up ground balls.”
Brosco was the primary beneficiary, as he scored three times in 87 seconds to give the Wildcats a 6-2 lead at halftime.
The assault continued in the third quarter with four more goals, beginning with Gorman’s at the 3:19 mark. Tim Rotanz, Higgins and Rotanz again made it seven unanswered goals before Glenn’s Joe DiRaimo broke the streak. The Wildcats added four more goals in the fourth quarter, including two by Higgins, one by Bray and Brosco’s fifth.
Coach Rotanz said the early ground ball trouble didn’t frustrate the Wildcats too much. “I just told them to be patient, don’t force it, and just play our game,” he said. “At one point we felt like a prizefighter — you get enough jabs in there, and eventually they’re going to put their arms down and we’re going to bang ‘em.”
Bayport (12-5) trounced Mount Sinai in the other semifinal game, 16-2. The Wildcats defeated Bayport, 11-7, on May 3.
Brosco said the Wildcats need to keep playing their game to get to where they always expect to be, playing for a county championship. “We just have to move the ball, get the ground balls, and hopefully we’ll come out on top,” he said. “Last year we earned our eighth [title], so we just want to keep the streak up and get the ninth this year.”