Wildcats boys lax squad looks to build on last year’s success

After winning last year’s Suffolk County championship, the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats boys lacrosse team is looking to do it again — but this time they plan to take their success a few steps further — first by winning the Long Island championship game, then by setting their sights firmly on the New York State title. 

Head coach Mike Taylor has worked with this group of seniors since second grade — his son, Liam Taylor, is on the team — so it’s been a steady grind that will hopefully produce a fruitful return.

The Wildcats will be without a few key players who carried the load last year, but most of the team returns, and experienced seniors are scattered up and down the lineup. Alec Gregorek, who now plays for the U.S. Naval Academy, will be the hardest to replace after having an incredible season last year, scoring a Long Island-best 70 goals. 

“You can’t just replace Alec,” Taylor said. “You take three to four people and try to get the same out of them. You hope some guys step up and take some chunks out of the 100 or so points he scored last year. A lot of it is going to fall on Liam Kershis.”

Kershis, a five-star recruit heading to Duke University in the fall, has already been named a preseason All-American after scoring 59 goals and assisting on 38 others during his junior campaign. 

“We lose key guys every year,” Kershis said. “But we always have new talent coming up. And I’m confident that this team has what it takes. One thing that’s different this year is that we truly have the hunger to win. We’re coming for that state championship. We’ve got playoff wins under our belt, we’ve got a Suffolk County championship, but we don’t have a state championship. We’ve been wanting to win one since we were water boys on the team in fourth grade.”

Bill Landon photos

Shoreham-Wading River hasn’t won the state title since 2019, which featured a young Alec Gregorek manning the attack. Things could come full circle this year as there’s another young Gregorek in the starting lineup — Noah. The 8th-grader has been carving up defenses his entire life. The last of the Gregoreks, who have now sent five children through the SWR lacrosse program and on to prestigious colleges, Noah will play alongside his brother and senior captain Liam, who scored three of the Wildcats’ six goals from his midfield position in last year’s Long Island championship game. 

“We have some young bulls on the team,” Liam Gregorek said. “We’re trying to keep them leashed but the talent level is obvious. They’ve learned from the best.”

“I remember Noah in diapers at our practice attempting over the back goals on the sidelines,” coach Taylor said. “That’s how special that kid is. He’s had a lacrosse stick in his hands from birth.”

Sophomore Andrew Cimino will fill the final attacking spot vacated by Steven Cain, who is at Marist University this season.

“We’re young up front,” Taylor said. “But having Kershis there should help them settle in. They’re incredibly talented but just need someone to help guide their decision-making sometimes.”

The rest of the starting lineup is all seniors with collegiate commitments — a tremendous asset for any team striving for a title. Alex Kershis (Navy), Ryan Wilson (Siena) and Liam Gregorek (Johns Hopkins) will run the show from the midfield. Each of them garnered tremendous playing time last year and came up with plenty of assists, goals and loose balls. Seniors Liam Taylor (Bryant), Daniel Greene (Rochester) and Kieran Clifford (Pace) round out a defense that seemed to really start clicking toward the end of last season. Jaden Galfano (Fairfield University) looks to build on a tremendous junior season in goal. Galfano saved 200 shots last year with a 60% save percentage.

“We have unfinished business this year,” Galfano said. “We’re not OK with how our season ended last year and we intend on making it to the states. The target is on our back and that’s fine. We like it that way.”

The Wildcats will open their season March 25 when they host Rocky Point at 4:45 p.m.

“We don’t have to win every game,” coach Taylor said. “What we have to do is get better every week and be playing our best lacrosse once playoffs come around. There’s a lot of similarities this year to our 2019 team. It’s just going to be a matter of how this team comes together.”