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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.