If you see Vic Guadagnino smiling and whistling a happy tune these days, he has good reason.
The Riverhead High School boys lacrosse coach is quite optimistic about this season. He has the core of the program’s first playoff team returning, including senior Ryan Hubbard, an All-County attackman who is the team’s all-time leading scorer.
“It looks pretty good,” Guadagnino said. “We’re looking to get back to the playoffs and get one or two wins, too.”
Since Guadagnino took over in 2009, the Blue Waves have steadily improved. Riverhead finished at 10-7 last year.
“I have many more kids who are doing very well,” he said. “I think this is the deepest and strongest team we’ve ever had. I’m really excited about that.”
Four senior co-captains and a junior goalie, John Roca, have made Guadagnino optimistic. That veteran foursome includes defensemen Jaron Greenidge and Mike Van Bommell, midfielder Dan Czelatka, an All-Division selection, and Hubbard. Roca will man the nets, while two sophomores, Blake Carrera, a long-stick midfielder and the Suffolk County Division I rookie of the year who already has committed to Stony Brook University, and midfielder Austin Fitzpatrick, who will take face-offs, round out the key players.
Hubbard is coming off a career year (44 goals, 19 assists). He also led the team with 63 ground balls.
“He can flat out score,” Guadagnino said. “He’s got really good size. He doesn’t care about his own well being. He just goes in there and gets hit. He just loves it. He gets a scent of that goal, takes a lot [of punishment] and goes through.”
No one has to remind Guadagnino of the Division I challenges. He sees Smithtown West, Ward Melville, Northport, West Islip and Sachem North as the teams to beat. “If we can get in the mix there, beat a couple of them, then we’ve made it,” he said.
The Blue Waves will play Mount Sinai in a non-league game on Tuesday before taking on Smithtown East, the team that beat the Blue Waves in the playoffs last year, in their first league encounter on March 26.
Justin Arini realizes he faces a “daunting task” taking “over a program that has been so successful” at Shoreham-Wading River.
Arini is the new man in charge of the perennial power, replacing fired coaching legend Tom Rotanz. Rotanz directed the Wildcats to the 2012 state Class C title and the 2013 Long Island championship.
“I am tremendously honored and humbled to take over for Coach Rotanz,” he said. “It’s definitely some outrageous shoes to fill. He left this program in great shape.”
The Wildcats return 15 seniors to a team that is expected to be in Class B hunt with Miller Place and Huntington.
Arini will rely on three key seniors — midfielder Michael Loscalzo, attackman Troy Miller and goalie Tom Tatarian.
Loscalzo, who missed last season with an injury, played a key role in the state championship game as a sophomore two years ago, replacing Shoreham’s injured and top face-off man and winning his challenges.
“He’s not only a great player, he’s one of the leaders of the team,” Arini said of Loscalzo, who will attend Navy Prep before going to the United States Naval Academy. “He’s just a remarkable kid.”
Miller, who is heading for Salisbury University (Md.), uses speed, superior hand skill and vision to score goals.
And Tatarian, who was last year’s backup and will attend Saint Leo University (Fla.), is expected to backstop many wins this season. “He makes the saves that he shouldn’t,” Arini said.
Given the program’s success, Arini knows the expectations are great.
“This year is going to be a tremendous challenge,” he said. “Since I’ve been hired in January we’ve experienced challenges. The season will be riddled with challenges. It’s because we have a new coaching staff. … Tim Rotanz arguably is one of the best lacrosse players at Shoreham-Wading River. When you have a player like that graduate, it leaves a massive void.
“But I have 15 seniors who are talented and are willing to work. If there is a team that can wade through the challenges, I feel I have it right now.”
Shoreham will open the season at Mattituck/Greenport/Southold on March 20.
Trying to improve on a 1-15 season, Bishop McGann-Mercy hired Rocky Point High School graduate Thomas Palasek, an attackman with the New York Lizards of Major League Lacrosse as its head coach. An MLL all-star last season, Palasek brings some impressive credentials to the Monarchs in his first coaching venture.
The Monarchs, who will compete in Division II, will host Center Moriches in their season-opener on March 25.
Attempts to interview Palasek were unsuccessful.