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Mike Taylor

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Shoreham-Wading River’s boys’ lacrosse team finally met its match.

The Wildcats were tamed by a potent Cold Spring Harbor offense June 3, falling 16-7 in the Class C Long Island championship title game.

“It’s a hard pill to swallow,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Mike Taylor said. “To go 16-3 and win the Suffolk County championship is tough enough. Unfortunately, we met a juggernaut in Cold Spring Harbor. They played excellent.”

Chris Gray shoots and scores. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Each time the Wildcats made a mistake, whether not winning the faceoff, falling victim to a forced turnover or having a pass bounce out of bounds, the Seahawks capitalized on the opportunity.

“Every time we made a mistake they made us pay, and they made us pay not only in possession, but turning those possessions into goals,” Taylor said. “They’re a good team; they’re some of the best.”

Taylor thought the two teams matched up similarly, and they did. Senior Chris Gray, who just recently edged out Smithtown East’s Connor DeSimone to become Suffolk County’s leading scorer with 90 goals and 25 assists, and Long Island’s top goal scorer, was a similar scoring threat that Cold Spring Harbor’s Taylor Strough was. Each team has lockdown defenders, and plenty of other offensive weapons.

“We’re both run-and-gun teams with so many guys that can score,” Taylor said. “The ball bounced their way a little more, and they made a lot less mistakes defensively. And our mistakes turned into big goals.”

Xavier Arline tries to push a Cold Spring Harbor defender out of the way to get a clear look at the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Strough finished with four goals and two assists, while Gray led the Wildcats with three goals and two assists. Shoreham-Wading River, which edged out Garden City last year for the Class B Long Island title, also had contributions from senior Sean Haplin and freshman Xavier Arline, who added two goals each.

The Seahawks were up 4-0 before Gray scored unassisted on a dodge from behind the cage — the Wildcats’ only goal of the first quarter. He added another at the four-minute mark off a Joe Miller faceoff win, but Shoreham-Wading River was down 11-2 at the half.

After a 5-0 Cold Spring Harbor run that triggered a running clock with the team up 14-2, Arline scored twice, sandwiching a Haplin goal off a feed from Gray, to try and stop the bleeding. After a Seahawks tally, Gray completed his hat trick to help the Wildcats close within 10, 16-6. Haplin’s final goal came off another assist from Gray at 2:14, but neither team would score thereafter.

Kevin Cutinella makes his way to the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It’s been special,” Taylor said of taking his seniors on the Long Island championship-bound journey two seasons in a row. “I’ve had three years with some extremely talented kids, and I may never see that kind of talent again like I have in Kevin Cutinella, Danny Cassidy, Chris Gray. I have 16 fabulous seniors that are great lacrosse players and even better kids. It’s hard to spend so much time with them and see them move on, but I wish them nothing but the best.”

Cutinella said he’s felt privileged to be coached by Taylor and his assistants.

“[They have] spent so much time developing a team that can perform at a championship level year in and year out,” Cutinella said. “As a team, we didn’t perform well and to the level that Cold Spring Harbor played up to, and ultimately the score spoke for itself. But Shoreham-Wading River has shaped me into the person I am today. I’m grateful we made it this far, and even more grateful to play with all the other players on my team. My teammates, these coaches have done a lot for me, and I can’t thank them enough.”

 

In lacrosse, there’s a term “take it to ‘X,’” when a player brings the ball directly behind the goal crease. But Shoreham-Wading River was taking the ball to a different “X” Wednesday.

The X-Man, Xavier Arline, was the Wildcats’ superhero May 30, as the freshman used speed and skill to stymie an Islip surge — the Buccaneers scored four fast goals to pull within one and make it a close game — to lift Shoreham-Wading River to its second straight Suffolk County Class C title with a 13-7 win over Islip. The title marks the 12th in program history.

Arline had a highlight reel play at the 7:48 mark of the fourth quarter, after Islip opened with four goals in a two-minute span, he stole the ball from the opposing goalkeeper on a ride, and no-look passed behind his back to senior Chris Gray for an empty-netter.

“I was just trying to help my team win,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to do too much, I wasn’t trying to do too little. I was just making the plays to help my team win.”

He said during practice, head coach Mike Taylor lets the team be free and creative, which made the eye-popping play feel routine.

“When I saw Chris out of the corner of my eye, I picked it up and threw it like it was natural,” he said. “I didn’t even think twice.”

Gray said Arline’s play wasn’t surprising to him either.

“Xavier is a beast — he used his athleticism,” he said. “And he’s only a freshman, which is really scary.”

Arline had two goals and two assists before that score that extended Shoreham-Wading River’s lead to 9-7. Senior Kevin Cutinella followed with his hat trick goal on a man-up opportunity, and from there, it was Gray’s turn to step up.

Gray went coast to coast, scored off a pass from Arline after Cutinella carried the ball into Islip’s zone, and added another unassisted goal to cap off the five-goal Wildcats run. Gray finished with five goals and one assist.

“We used a lot of teamwork,” Gray said. “We told ourselves we wanted to jump out on them early, get a fast lead, then kind of take the air out of the ball and let our offense do its thing — because we have one of the best offenses on the Island, I have full confidence to say that. They make me a better player.”

He said the team’s defense doesn’t get a lot of credit, especially being that Gray is second in Suffolk County scoring behind Smithtown East’s Connor DeSimone, but it was hard to miss senior James Mirabell locking down a strong Islip offense, and racing to ground balls that led to crucial possession. The defense, also led by Dan Cassidy and Kyle Higgins, helped protect goalie Andrew DePalma, who made five saves.

“I think it’s the best defense we played all year,” Arline added. “We faced some adversity but we buckled down.”

During the lapse that saw Islip pour in four straight goals, Cutinella said his team fell flat.

“We were complacent,” he said. “And getting a penalty drained us.”

He credited Arline’s goal for sparking Shoreham-Wading River to get back on its game.

“You can’t teach that,” Cutinella said of the Arline to Gray play. “He’s making plays, getting everyone rowdy. It changed the game. That lights us up.”

Taylor said the Wildcats closing out the show the way they did was something he expects from his high-powered offense.

“They were resilient — Islip was battling back and I’m so proud of how they stood their ground,” he said. “We bent but we didn’t break.”

The head coach added that his team will celebrate, but just for a short time before getting back to work, because after last season’s state semifinal loss, the team feels it has some unfinished business. Arline said after being a part of the county and Long Island championship-winning team last year getting to that level almost becomes an addiction.

“It’s a feeling you want to get back every single year,” he said. “Our goal is to get a state championship and we’re one step closer.”

Shoreham-Wading River will play Cold Spring Harbor in the Long Island championship at Stony Brook University June 3 at 3 p.m.

Hundreds attended the Lax Out Cancer fundraiser in Shoreham that benefited four local children battling cancer. Photo by Kevin Redding

Alexa Boucher has attended Shoreham-Wading River’s Lax Out Cancer game for years, and this year, she’s one of the fundraiser’s beneficiaries.

In January, Alexa Boucher was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancerous tumor that’s grown on the 14-year-old’s eye socket.

She was chosen as one of four — alongside 6-year-old Grayson from Miller Place, and 1-year-old Hannah Grace and 10-year-old Jackson from Port Jefferson Station — who were honored in the middle of Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field during the ninth annual event May 6.

Alexa Boucher, above with her family, enjoys playing her guitar, basketball and softball. Photo by Kevin Redding

Shoreham-Wading River, Garden City, Miller Place and Bellport participated in three games, with all money raised through donations and raffles divided equally among the recipient’s families.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Alexa said when she arrived on the school grounds to see hundreds of families, volunteers and corporate sponsors rallying behind her. “I never would’ve imagined that I would be a recipient.”

Kimberly Boucher, Alexa’s mother, was equally overwhelmed by the outpouring support for her daughter, who has been undergoing chemotherapy at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the city.

“We’re just so blessed to live in such an amazing community; there aren’t enough words to say how much we appreciate what’s been done for Alexa,” she said. “You never think it’d be your own child that you’re coming for … we’re just so grateful [that] everybody comes together when they hear a child is sick.”

Larry and Vanessa Horowitz, whose son was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in February and has been in and out of treatment at Stony Brook Hospital the last few weeks, were grateful to be there with him.

“He’s 6 years old and deserves everything we can give him,” Larry Horowitz said as he watched Grayson, smiling ear-to-ear, pass a lacrosse ball around with his friend. “There’s so much unbelievable selfishness and fundraising and everyone getting together here. The sun is shining and this is what I’ve been praying for.”

Grayson Horowitz tosses around a lacrosse ball. Photo by Kevin Redding

His wife, reflecting on her son’s ability to muscle through his ordeal at such a young age, said, “He’s stronger than I ever imagined and it’s making us all stronger just watching him. … You don’t really know people until you go through something like this, and I have no idea how to thank everybody for doing they they’ve done for us.”

The Shoreham-Wading River-based fundraiser was started in 2008 by Tom Rotanz, the high school’s then varsity lacrosse coach, as a way to acknowledge the father of one his player’s, who succumbed to a rare salivary gland cancer in 2005, as well as others in the community affected by cancer.

Since then, the event narrowed its focus on raising money for the families of kids in Shoreham and neighborhood districts fighting cancer — starting with 10-year-old Liam McGuire, a member of Shoreham’s lacrosse program who has been in remission following a 38-month leukemia battle, and Kaitlyn Suarez, a Shoreham girls’ lacrosse superstar who joined the team after recovering from two bouts with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“It’s such an uplifting experience to feel all the love that everybody throws at these kids,” said Miller Place resident Glen Cote, who, along with his wife Renée and young son Zachary, were beneficiaries in 2014 and 2015. In June 2014, Zachary, 5 at the time, was diagnosed with Grade 4 medulloblastoma, or brain cancer.

“To have your child go through something like this, you’re down in the dumps,” the father said. “But this provides the parents and the little ones with a great feeling.”

Before the event even kicked off, $30,000 was raised for the families through sponsors, which included St. Charles Hospital and FLG Lacrosse, and the sale of program ads, T-shirts and raffle tickets.

A DJ from 101.7 FM “The Beach” emceed the fundraiser and That Meetball Place, from Patchogue, supplied food for attendees.

“They’re competitive kids and they want to play the game, but they understand the bigger purpose of giving back to kids that are not as fortunate.”

— Mike Taylor

“Every year it’s grown and grown,” said Kathy Miller, a member of the event committee and mother of a lacrosse player. “It’s teaching the players a valuable lesson about life, how precious life is and how much this giving means for the families. It’s bigger than just a lacrosse game.”

Mike Taylor, head coach of the boys’ varsity lacrosse team who opened the door for other school districts to participate when he was hired three years ago, said the players are a different breed of athletes.

“They understand the true meaning of this,” he said. “They’re competitive kids and they want to play the game, but they understand the bigger purpose of giving back to kids that are not as fortunate as they are. When they were kids seeing this event, they wanted to be part of it on the lacrosse side. Now that they’re older, and they’ve met the kids that they’re helping, it becomes a whole different thing to them.”

Joe Miller, a senior and varsity midfielder for Shoreham-Wading River’s boys’ lacrosse team, said he’s incredibly moved by what the recipients go through.

“It means a lot that we can help them out a little bit,” Miller said. “Seeing the kids and their families here, it makes it a lot more powerful and makes you feel like what you did made a difference.”

Defenseman Kyle Higgins echoed his teammate’s sentiment.

“It’s an honor to play for this kind of event,” he said. “Helping those who need support means a lot to us.”

Sean Haplin shoots past a diving West Babylon goalkeeper. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Jitters are to be expected when a freshman takes the field for the first time, but looking at Shoreham-Wading River’s Jake Naso, you wouldn’t know it.

Jake Naso carries the ball into West Babylon’s zone after gaining possession. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The freshman won 22 of 25 faceoffs to give the boys’ lacrosse team the possession it needed to come away with a 17-4 nonleague win over West Babylon May 2.

“I felt good,” Naso said of his first varsity start, smiling. “I’m getting used to it, and I hope to take more in the future.”

Naso was a piece of the total team puzzle, with the Wildcats outscoring the Eagles 7-2 in the first quarter.

“We got up on them early and that affected the whole outcome of the game,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Mike Taylor said. “I thought that we were very crisp and we did the things we wanted to do right away. I’m very happy with the boys executing what we practiced to run against them.”

He also liked seeing 10 athletes sprinkling the score sheet with points throughout the afternoon.

Chris Gray scoops up the ground ball with a defender on his back. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We’ve been trying to get to that level — creating a team concept offensively,” Taylor said. “And now we’re getting guys more game experience, and with Jake winning the faceoffs, that’s going to be huge for us depth-wise. We already have a good faceoff guy with Joe [Miller] so to have two guys, we’re almost spoiled.”

Highlighting the offense was senior Chris Gray, who contributed five goals and five assists. Most notable, was Gray’s score off a cross-field pass from James Mirabell. With West Babylon’s goalkeeper out of the net after carrying the ball to the opposite end of the field, Gray grabbed hold of the pass and dribbled it in mid-air until getting a good enough hold to whip a shot behind his back and into the back of the cage as goalkeeper Mark Esposito tried to get back between the pipes.

James Mirabell and Chris Sheehan defend against a West Babylon attack. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We were relaxed on offense and then the defense got a big turnover,” Gray said. “The ball was bouncing in and out of my stick and I saw the goalie wasn’t in the net yet, and the best opportunity as he was making his way between the pipes was to shoot it behind my back, and luckily it went in.”

He also liked what he saw from his young teammate, Naso.

“He comes out to practice and works hard every day,” Gray said. “Winning the faceoffs and getting us all those extra possessions was big. This is a huge confidence-booster for him.”

But Taylor said there’s still room to grow. As the Wildcats learned last season, even with a near-flawless record, complacency can set in.

Gavin Gregorek looks to fire at the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“There are a lot of great teams out there that will be good competition,” he said. “We learned last year that we made it far, but we didn’t win it all. To win it all you have to continue to get better, so every day we have to come ready to work.”

Gray said the team’s two early-season losses — to East Islip and Eastport-South Manor in April — shaped the team. Now, they’re looking to gauge where they’re at with the games ahead.

“They helped us figure out what we were lacking,” Gray said. “We’re definitely getting better, and we have two big games coming up against Miller Place and Garden City that will really test our team.”

Shoreham-Wading River travels to Miller Place May 4 for a 4:30 p.m. matchup, and will host Garden City May 6 at 2 p.m.

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Wildcats can't overcome one-goal deficit as stellar season comes to an end

By Bill Landon

A one-goal Yorktown advantage proved too much for the Shoreham-Wading River boys’ lacrosse team to overcome, as the Wildcats’ stellar season came to an end with a 7-6 loss in the New York State semifinals Wednesday at Hofstra University.

As he’s done all postseason, junior midfielder Kevin Cutinella helped the team get on the board first, when he dished the ball to senior attack Jason Curran, who fired at the cage seven minutes in. Yorktown evened the scored with 29 seconds left in the opening quarter, but Shoreham retook the lead when eighth-grader Xavier Arline spun in front of the cage and, with an NBA-like jump shot, scored from high above the keeper’s stick to retake the lead. On the ensuing faceoff, Yorktown went the distance to retie the game, to mark the third goal scored in less than 20 seconds.

It was a new game heading into the second stanza, but neither team could pull away with a clear advantage. After a Yorktown goal, Shoreham-Wading River senior midfielder Jon Constant flicked the ball to junior attack Chris Gray, who fired a shot past the goalkeeper to even the score at 3-3 game.

“It’s been a fun ride,” Constant said previously of making it to this point with his team.

Again, Yorktown answered, but the Wildcats countered again, when Curran fed Gray on the cut, and drove his shot into the netting.

With both teams in a stalemate, Curran fed Constant on the cut this time, for a Wildcats lead in the first minute of the second half, but again Yorktown battled, scoring once at the end of the third, and again halfway through the fourth, for a 6-5 advantage.

“We made a mistake late in the game after a timeout where we didn’t have enough guys on the field,” said Shoreham Wading River head coach Mike Taylor. “I’m not sure how that happened, but someone wasn’t paying attention from the huddle and by the time I subbed a guy from the box it was too late.”

“It’s been a fun ride.”
—Jon Constant

With 1:11 left in regulation, the Wildcats went a man down for a slashing penalty that proved costly. Yorktown capitalized on the advantage to make it a two-goal game for the first time all afternoon.

With 11 seconds left and Shoreham back at full strength, Curran went the distance and buried a shot to draw within one goal with few precious seconds left. With five seconds remaining, the Wildcats ran out of time.

“This is a big-time moment in lacrosse and I think we were nervous at the beginning of the game,” Taylor said. “Yorktown is resilient — they’re methodical, they do several things well and they wear you down — they take advantage of when you make mistakes and every time we made a mistake they capitalized.”

Shoreham-Wading River finished the regular season 14-2 and had a tough postseason schedule leading up to the state semifinal round, picking off Eastport-South Manor, Comsewogue and Sayville for the Suffolk County Class B crown, before defeating Garden City for the Long Island Championship title to finish with an 18-2 record.

“It’s something special,” Taylor said previously of the team’s season. “I wish this could go on forever.”

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Kevin Cutinella leads Wildcats with four goals, receives championship plaque from parents

Jimmy Puckey doesn’t even like lacrosse. But now, he’s a champion.

“It’s not my favorite sport,” Puckey said. “It’s nothing like football, but you have to do what you have to do. You have to play.”

What would get him to like the sport more?

“More hitting,” he said. “Less getting hit with the ball also helps.”

What Puckey does between the pipes is special. And he did it for his Wildcats, making save after save when it counted to help Shoreham-Wading River to its first Long Island championship title since 2012, with an 8-6 win over Garden City Saturday at Hofstra University.

“Jimmy might not like lacrosse, but he’s playing for his friends, and he has such a passion for his brothers that he doesn’t want to let them down,” head coach Mike Taylor said. “He might not like lacrosse, but he loves his friends.”

It was a different first quarter from what teams have recently seen from the Wildcats, and junior Kevin Cutinella stole the show, finishing the game with four goals on five shots.

The midfielder scored early unassisted, and junior attack Chris Gray added a tally off an assist from senior attack Jason Curran with a man-up advantage for the 2-0 lead.

“He doesn’t panic, and we lean on him because he calms everyone down,” Taylor said of Cutinella. “He’s just a great kid.”

Puckey clipped the ball and made a save seven seconds later, and at the 5:42 mark, Cutinella scored his second goal off a pass from senior midfielder Jon Constant to finish a 3-0 run.

Garden City saved a shot by junior midfielder Joe Miller, and Puckey made another block before Garden City put its first point on the board with 1:40 left to end the scoring for the first quarter.

“Communication was key, not making too many errors on offense and just playing fast,” Cutinella said. “Just playing our game.”

Garden City scored four unanswered goals to take the lead, but Cutinella wasn’t having any of it, and passed the ball to junior Joe Miller who, with a back-door cut, leaped in front of the net and dumped it in for the tying goal with 22.8 seconds left in the first half.

“We have said that we haven’t really played four complete quarters, and I think even today, we played a great first quarter, a poor second quarter, and then a great third and fourth,” Taylor said. “I’m still waiting for four full quarters and when we do that I think we’ll win a state championship.”

Gray received two feeds from Miller, but both shots were blocked with Garden City heavily defending the team’s top scorer.

With 4:52 left in the third, Cutinella scored unassisted for his hat trick goal.

“They had the long pole on Jonny [Constant] which led me to have the shortstick defensive midfielder on me and I just took advantage of that,” Cutinella said. “We weren’t talking in the beginning and then we changed that around, and when our defense plays good, our offense plays good.”

After a few missed Wildcat shots, Constant scored unassisted for a 6-4 advantage with 27 seconds left in the quarter.

“We never beat Garden City and it was great to beat them here in my senior year,” he said. “We had to stop them on defense first and then we had to put them in on offense with great ball movement. The chemistry is good and it’s been a fun ride.”

Puckey, knowing what to do to secure the lead, batted the ball out of bounds to his left with 1.2 seconds on the clock.

“He just showed up and is playing his A game,” Cutinella said. “He likes lacrosse now.”

Cutinella’s parents, pre-planned, but surprisingly to their son, presented the team with the championship plaque.

“Seeing them on the field made my day even more,” he said. “You can’t really put the words together for that stuff. It’s a great experience and I love them. They’ve been there for me.”

Cutinella said this win means everything, adding that the team had one goal at the beginning of the season, and they’ve almost achieved it.

Taylor is also proud to see his team come through with this kind of success after the school scored its second consecutive Long Island championship crown in football this school year.

“This is what you work for the entire year and to see all the hard work pay off and to get to this moment, this is what you play for,” he said. “We’ll celebrate today, but I think now we have unfinished business. I have a lot of the football players on this squad and I think some of their successes is translating over onto the lacrosse field. The kids are playing well in big moments.”

He’s sad to see this season coming to a close, but couldn’t be more thrilled for the special moments these boys have had throughout this memorable season.

“The saddest moment is realizing right now I have four more practices left with these kids,” he said. “Having limited time with a special group of kids, I wish it could go on forever.”

One of the most special moments so far, was for him to see Cutinella receive the plaque from his parents, especially after the game he’d had.

“That’s an ironic moment — especially when it was planned prior to this — for him to have that type of game,” he said, fighting back tears. “These kids have been through so much tragedy, they just deserve this. I think someone might be looking down from above.”