Best of the Rest: No shortage of local lacrosse stars

When Peter Vlahakis looks back on his lacrosse career, which still continues today in Major League Lacrosse, he estimates he must have taken 4,000+ face-offs since high school.

DANA KAPLAN PHOTO | Peter Vlahakis, a 2000 SWR grad, became the all-time leader in face-off wins in MLL history.

It’s been quite the workload for the 5-foot-10, 190-pound bulldog who made a name for himself in the trenches of the midfield circle, where lacrosse games are often won or lost. A 2000 Shoreham-Wading River graduate, Vlahakis recently set the all-time career record for face-off wins in MLL history. After a loss to Boston June 11, he had a total of 1,023, which he has since added to.

Vlahakis is just one of a huge number of outstanding lacrosse players who are from this area. No sport in recent years has turned out as many Division I players as lacrosse.

Vlahakis plays for the Long Island Lizards and he’s been in MLL for eight years. He attended Fairfield University where he developed into his role as a face-off specialist. In 2003 he was ranked seventh in the nation with a face-off percentage of .633. In all four seasons playing at Fairfield he was one of the top face-off players in the country.

His lacrosse career wasn’t always about just winning a face-off. At Shoreham he won the Ray Enners Award as the top player in Suffolk County. He finished his career with 142 points, which at the time was the second most in school history behind his brother Jimmy.

In an interview with the North Shore Sun in June, Vlahakis, 29, said he always hoped to play into his 30s. As he got closer, the face-off record became more and more a possibility.

“The last two years I was getting closer so I thought this is something I wanted to get,” he said. “More importantly just to keep playing and just being good enough to make a team.”

Scott Reh at Rocky Point was the first local to win the Ray Enners Award in 1985. Vlahakis was the first local player since Reh. In 2004 Rocky Point added its second name to the list when Jeff Strittmatter, an attackman/midfielder, won the award. He was an All-American his senior year and played in college at Wesleyan University.

In 2006 Mount Sinai had its first winner when Chris Ritchie received the award. When he finished his career he was a two-time All-American and his 393 points ranked him No. 1 all-time in Suffolk County. He was also a strong football player and ran winter track. Ritchie went on to play lacrosse at Cornell. As a senior last season he started 14 games and scored 17 goals with eight assists for the best year of his career.

There have been plenty others who have it to the professional ranks in lacrosse in addition to Vlahakis. Rocky Point graduate Brian Spallina (’96) made his fourth all-star appearance in July as a member of the Long Island Lizards. A 6-foot-1, 198-pound defenseman, Spallina is known for his fiery, aggressive play on the field. He played at Hofstra in college where he was a two-time All-American. He was drafted into MLL by Philadelphia in 2004.

Shoreham graduates Mike Unterstein and Chris Unterstein both play in MLL as well. Chris Unterstein (’02) finished his career at Shoreham with 159 points. Mike (’04) had 142. Both players were standouts at Hofstra.

2002 Shoreham graduate Liam Cerveny tallied 271 points in his high school career before playing at Adelphi.

One of the top players to come out of Riverhead, Jeremy Hobson helped lead NYIT to the Division II national championship in 2008.

Most recently in 2008 Rocky Point graduate Tom Palasek led the Eagles to the program’s first state championship with one of the best individual seasons of any local ever. As a senior he had 50 goals with 92 assists. He finished his career with the school record for points and assists. He now plays for Syracuse after originally attending Johns Hopkins.

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