04/13/13 8:18pm
04/13/2013 8:18 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River junior Brett Friedman tries to fight off a Comsewogue defender Saturday afternoon.

WILDCATS 8, WARRIORS 7 (OT)

As a five-goal lead slowly withered away Saturday afternoon, the nerves of the Shoreham-Wading River players became more and more frayed.

There were unforced turnovers, sloppy passes and even overpassing in transition, which is usually the bread and butter of Shoreham’s offense. For a team that lost as many key players as the Wildcats did from last year’s state championship team, performing under the pressure of a big game is a bit of a new experience.

“We had a lot of young guys start for us today,” said senior Tim Rotanz. “A big crowd, so it’s good for them to get this experience early.”

Facing their heated rivals in an early season showdown featuring two undefeated teams, the Wildcats persevered long enough for a thrilling 8-7 overtime win against the Comsewogue Warriors at Shoreham-Wading River High School.

“These younger kids, I know they can play,” said Shoreham coach Tom Rotanz. “I thought at one point we had given so many opportunities away and that’s why every huddle I said ‘can we just relax? Just play our game.’ ”

After the Warriors (6-1, 4-1 Division II) tied the game at 7 with 4:12 left in the fourth quarter, both teams had plenty of chances down the stretch and into overtime. The Warriors lost possession on a shot that went off the endline with about 1:25 left.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham senior Tim Rotanz scored two goals with two assists Saturday.

The Wildcats (5-0) got out into transition soon after, and Tim Rotanz brought it up and found a wide open Hunter Hayes at the goal. Hayes snagged a long feed from Rotanz and banged a shot inside the right post for the game-winner.

“I knew they were in a zone the whole game,” Rotanz said. “When I got it I saw they were still shifting around and Hunter put his stick up right over two shorties. He was behind the whole defense.”

Hayes said he saw the defenseman slide up, leaving him open.

“I knew Timmy would find me,” he said. “So I just slid into the open spot and shot it.”

Rotanz tallied two goals and two assists and Hayes had a pair of goals with an assist.

A junior in his second year on varsity, Hayes didn’t hesitate to call his goal the biggest of his career thus far.

“It’s the best one of all them combined,” he said.

A pile-up ensued on the field following Hayes’ goal, a scene that more resembled a playoff game in June than an early season game in April. But whenever the Wildcats and Warriors get together, there’s always a playoff feel to it.

“Every time we play Comsewogue it’s a huge game,” Tim Rotanz said. “It’s always close with them.”

Fans packed the bleachers and lined the east side of the field. A large contingent of Comsewogue fans made the short trip east.

It was all Shoreham fans cheering early as the Wildcats blitzed the Warriors with a 5-0 start in the opening 7 1/2 minutes. Tim Rotanz whipped two goals in 21 seconds apart to make it 4-0 and Anthony Visitin (2 goals, 2 assists) scored with 4:36 left to make it 5-0. The Wildcats appeared to be on their way to a rout.

But the offense soon went dry. The Warriors limited Shoreham to just two more goals over the next 40 1/2 minutes.

“I think they picked up our offense,” Tim Rotanz said. “They settled their zone in and they really picked it up well.”

The Warriors chipped away at Shoreham’s lead and began the fourth quarter with the first three goals to tie the game.

With their backs against the wall, the Wildcats kept their composure to rally back and find a way to win.

Shoreham got a big effort from goalkeeper Christian Palazzotto, a senior who’s quickly developed into a rock between the pipes in his first year starting. Palazzotto came up with several difficult saves to keep Comsewogue at bay.

“He basically came out of nowhere,” Tom Rotanz said. “He was always kind of an average goalie and then this spring he has blossomed into a great stopper. He has very good poise on the clear, good outlet passes and he positions himself well.”

After Sayville’s loss to Eastport Saturday, the Wildcats are the last unbeaten team in Division II.

joew@timesreview.com

03/21/13 6:00pm
03/21/2013 6:00 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River senior Tim Rotanz will lead the midfield for the Wildcats while also seeing time on attack or even defense.

Over the last decade, Shoreham-Wading River has consistently been among the top boys lacrosse teams in Division II, which is a mix of Class B and C teams. When the Wildcats are good, as they were last year in winning a state championship, they can play with any Class B team in Suffolk County.

But the road to a state title is undoubtedly less bumpy in Class C. A team that has straddled the line between the two classifications, Shoreham seized its opportunity as a C school last year by winning the third state title in program history.

As the Wildcats enter the 2013 season, they find themselves once again among the elite in the county. Seeded second in Division II, the Wildcats are the favorite in Class C.

But their window as a Class C school appears to be closing. Next year they’ll bump up to Class B after the state dropped the enrollment number for Class C schools. That could leave Shoreham in Class B for a considerable time going forward.

The opportunity is now.

“If we work at what we do best, we have a chance to have a successful season,” said Shoreham coach Tom Rotanz. “We feel pretty confident if they buy into it and they work hard, who knows what can happen?”

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While the Wildcats lost several key players from last year’s team like midfielder Trevor Brosco and goalkeeper Tyler Lutjen, they return a decent number of starters. And most of the players stepping into starting roles this year gained plenty of experience on the varsity last year. In senior Tim Rotanz the Wildcats feature one of the most dynamic players in the state. A University of Maryland recruit, Rotanz already owns the school record for career points. He tallied 91 last season, on the heels of a 110-point season as a sophomore. Barring any injury, he’s on pace to set the school record for career goals and assists this season.

Rotanz will play in the midfield and can also slide to attack. On man-down situations, he’ll even grab a long pole and play defense.

While Rotanz faces heavy pressure from opposing defenses, the Wildcats have plenty of wrinkles in the offense to spring him free and counter an overzealous defense. “If they run zone we put him right in the middle of the mix,” Tom Rotanz said. “As soon as he gets the ball, guys cut because they know he’s going to look crease and get it there.”

The Wildcats will have some new players on attack this year. Juniors Anthony Visintin and Hunter Hays will see increased roles this year alongside juniors Troy Miller and Sean Condron. All are in their second year on varsity.

Tim Rotanz, sophomore Ryan Bray and senior Dan Malave will form the first midfield line. Malave is in his fourth year on varsity. Bray played a big role last year in the playoffs with 8 goals. He tallied a hat trick in the Long Island championship against Cold Spring Harbor, a 9-7 Shoreham win.

Junior Mike Loscalzo will be the player who gets it all started on face-offs. Loscalzo had to take pressure face-offs last year, especially in the state final when Shoreham lost Brosco in the opening minutes to a concussion. Loscalzo will also run on the second midfield line with sophomore Dan Hughes. Miller may bump up to the midfield line with them at times as well. Jake Kavanagh will backup Loscalzo on face-offs.

On defense the Wildcats return seniors Ryan Stern and Alex Houlihan. Both players are in their third year on varsity. Junior Tyler Anderson will play defense as well, along with senior Nick Mazzone. Junior Brett Friedman will play a long-pole middie. “He has amazing speed,” Rotanz said. “That kid can flat out fly and run all day.”

Senior Scott Lavey will rotate with Friedman. Rotanz has liked what he’s seen so far from senior Christian Palazotto and junior Tom Tatarian between the pipes. The two could end up splitting time.

The competition in Division II figures to be as tough as ever. Rotanz said he expects as many as the top nine teams to be able to beat each other.

The Wildcats open the season with a challenging game Wednesday against Westhampton Beach, the preseason No. 5 seed.

joew@timesreview.com