By Bill Landon
The No. 2-seeded Smithtown East boys’ lacrosse team collided with No. 6 Smithtown West in a battle of the Bulls Division I semifinal playoff matchup Friday, and while West was able to close within two goals late in the third quarter, East outscored its crosstown rival to claim a 17-11 victory and move on to play in the Suffolk County Class A finals.
East scored the first four goals of the game with senior attack and co-captain Brian Willetts netting two, and junior attack Dan Rooney and sophomore midfielder Connor Desimone adding a goal apiece. Sophomore attack Sean Barry assisted in three out of four scores.
With his two goals and an assist later in the game, Willetts tallied his 311th career point to put his name in the Smithtown East record books as the top scorer in program history.
The senior attack said it wasn’t so much a personal achievement as it was a team record, adding that it wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the teammates he’s had over the years, and the support from his family.
“I owe a lot to my parents — my mom getting me doctor appointments whenever I needed them,” Willetts said. “She’s the reason I stay off the sideline as far as injuries are concerned, and I really appreciate everything she does for me.”
Six minutes into the contest, West sophomore attack Jimmy Caddigan’s solo shot broke the ice to get his team on the scoreboard.
East sophomore attack Michael Latini answered back after grabbing a rebound off the pipes, and pushed the ball to the back of the cage wit 49 seconds left in the quarter, to help his team jump out to a 5-1 advantage.
Caddigan dished one off to junior midfielder Dan Caroussos, who drove the ball home two minutes into the second quarter, and after winning the ensuing face off, West’s junior midfielder Danny Varello took the ball from midfield all the way to the net, and with the good goal, helped his team close the gap, 5-3.
Both teams traded scores, with East’s Barry receiving a feed from Desimone, followed by West senior midfielder Jarrod Wilkom’s unassisted goal that split the pipes to bring the score to 6-4.
East continued to pepper the scoreboard with senior midfielder and co-captain John Daniggelis scoring twice, and Barry tallying another goal, to give East a 9-4 lead with 4:36 left to play in the second quarter.
East and West traded goals once more, to give the game a 10-5 halftime score.
“I feel like we moved the ball well today and we didn’t make too many stupid errors, and then we tightened it up on defense,” Barry said. “Coach told us to come out in the second half like the game was 0-0, and don’t let these guys get back in it.”
With the game slipping away, West took to the cage with three unanswered goals to open the scoring in the third. First, freshman attack Kyle Zawadzki’s shot found its mark, followed by Wilkom and sophomore midfielder Danny Riley, to trim the deficit to 10-8.
“I’m extremely proud of my players,” Smithtown West head coach Bob Moltisanti said. “I just told them that they have nothing to be ashamed of; they played their tails off. I told my seniors they can look themselves in the mirror and be proud of how they performed all season long.”
Unfazed by the scoring run, East retaliated with five unanswered goals of their own to bring the score to 15-8 heading into the final quarter.
“We know they’re a high-powered offense,” West’s Wilkom said. “We tried falling into a zone, but it wasn’t working for us in the first quarter, so we switched to man-to-man coverage in the second. We played well, but they got on some runs. It got away from us here and there, but we played well as a team.”
Desperate to stop the scoring frenzy, West leaned on Caroussos first, and then senior midfielder Garrett Brunsvold to make it a 15-10 game.
As the clock wound down, East hit the scoreboard twice more, while West’s final goal came from freshman attack Matt Miller off an assist from Caroussos.
“I thought we played pretty well, but they’re a great team,” Caddigan said of East. “They’re county champs two years in a row. They put up 17 on us. We put up 11, but it just wasn’t enough today.”
East head coach Jason Lambert said Smithtown West is also a great opponent that continues to get better, even with a younger roster.
“They graduated nine seniors last year and to make it this far is a testament to them and their coaching staff,” Lambert said. “We’re very fortunate. We’ve got a lot of kids who can move the ball around and they play unselfishly. We do a good job of sharing the wealth and we’ve done a good job at finishing all year long.”
East will face Ward Melville on Wednesday at Stony Brook University for the Suffolk County Class A title. The opening faceoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.