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Keith Lizzi

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Miller Place's Jack Walsh celebrates a goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Not even halfway through the season, the Miller Place boys’ lacrosse team already has the same amount of wins that it ended with last year, turning its program worst record in 2016 into the best start in team history this year.

On April 10, in a battle of undefeated teams, the Panthers produced their seventh straight win, a 10-8 edging of Mount Sinai, to remain perfect at 7-0, with a 5-0 streak in Division II. Last season, Miller Place finished with a 7-9 overall record.

Miller Place’s Anthony Beck moves the ball into Mount Sinai’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We knew they were going to come prepared for us and play tough, so we stuck to our game plan and made them try to beat us,” Miller Place senior midfielder Anthony Beck said. “It feels good to come out and take the battle of undefeated teams, and take the win from a crosstown rival.”

Miller Place junior attack Anthony Seymour put the Panthers on the board less than a minute into the game with a quick shot to the top left corner, and Beck followed him up with a shot straight up the middle after the ball was rotated around the cage while Miller Place looked for an opening.

“We pushed the ball really well, we possessed for the most part and we played as a team,” Beck said. “We didn’t try to do too much and we stuck together.”

The Panthers continued to pounce with a balanced attack, as next to light up the scoreboard was junior attack Patrick Doyen off a pass from Seymour.

Miller Place forced several turnovers, and Mount Sinai called for two timeouts in the first to try and shift the tempo. With 3:35 on the clock, Mount Sinai senior midfielder Jason Shlonsky rocketed a rebound past an unprepared Matt Leen for the Mustangs’ first point.

Beck added another unassisted goal for a 4-1 advantage at the end of the first 12 minutes.

Miller Place’s Jack Walsh and Mount Sinai’s Jason Shlonsky fight for a loose ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It’s been unbelievable how we’ve came together since the first day of practice,” Beck said. “This is a group we’ve been waiting for. We’ve been playing really well together.”

Miller Place senior attack Jack Walsh scored next, laying out across the front of the net and scoring while in mid air. Head coach Keith Lizzi said with the loss of senior midfielder Kevin Gersbeck to injury, he told his team everyone needs to up their game to fill the hole, and they’re doing it.

“Jack stepped up — and he’s been doing that all year — he’s one of the top scorers in the county,” Lizzi said. “And Anthony Beck has just been so consistent between the faceoffs, defense and offense. He’s our No. 1 utility guy out on the field.”

Mount Sinai seniors Nicholas Cesario and Nicholas Rose closed the gap, before Beck, grabbing possession off the faceoff, re-extended the margin with his hat trick goal, bringing the score to 6-3 at the halftime break.

“It felt good to dominate the faceoff ‘x,’ get my team some extra possessions and score some goals,” he said. “We’re undefeated right now, we’re taking it one game at a time and we hope to keep it that way.”

Miller Place had a slower second half. They were outscored by Mount Sinai 5-4, but always remained a few goals ahead. Leen, the senior goalkeeper who finished with 12 saves, helped preserve the lead and Walsh also chipped in with two goals and two assists.

“It’s my last year, so I’m trying to get out and do as much as I can,” Walsh said. “We were a little sloppy at times, but we’re all best friends, so there’s a lot of chemistry here.”

Mount Sinai’s Jason Shlonsky races ahead of a swam of Miller Place defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Mount Sinai wasn’t without its shining stars in its hard-fought comeback effort. Shlonsky finished with three goals, senior midfielder Robert DeMeo added two goals and two assists, and junior attack Joe Pirreca finished as the assist leader, scoring once and aiding in three others.

Lizzi said although it hasn’t been easy to complete, an already total turnaround from last year, the main motivation has been the Panthers desire for revenge from last year. They’ve already beaten some of those teams this year, like Comsewogue, Sayville and Elwood-John Glenn.

“We’re trying to take it one game at a time, and although the pressure continues to build, this is a group that’s handled it,” he said, adding that with seven Division I college commits and three-year starters the experience has paid back dividends.

Harborfields is next on the schedule, and revenge is on tap after Miller Place lost to the Tornadoes in double overtime last year. The Panthers will travel April 12 to compete in the 11 a.m. matchup.

“Certain games you have circled on the calendar, and this year, that’s one of them,” Lizzi said. “We won a lot of tight games this year that we lost last year, so these kids are playing with a little chip on their shoulder — with something to prove.”

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Jacob Bloom chases after an opponent for Miller Place. File photo by Desirée Keegan

When Jacob Bloom was heading into middle school, he had to choose between the two sports he had dedicated most of his childhood to learning.

But, his father told him his future wouldn’t involve a baseball bat, but a lacrosse stick, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions he ever made, as the now former Miller Place defender will be playing for Marist College next year.

“It was more of a complete sport,” Bloom said. “The physicality and the emotion — I fell in love with the game right away.”

Bloom’s father, Mark, who was coaching him in both sports, said he saw potential in his son to excel in the sport at a young age.

“He positioned himself better as a lacrosse player than as a baseball player,” he said. “In his size, his structure and his footwork.”

Miller Place boys’ lacrosse head coach Keith Lizzi saw the same strong future in the budding defender, who was brought up to the varsity team as a ninth grader.

“Jacob is extremely mature,” said Lizzi, who first coached Bloom when he was on the middle school football team. “He was coachable at a young age — he was like a sponge — and he listened well. He understood that it was going to make him better if he listens.”

Bloom said it was a challenge being the low man on the totem pole, but the team was able to groom him at a young age, and the athlete said the experience was what he needed most.

Mark Bloom saw his son devote most months out of the year to continue progressing in the sport, playing 10 months out of the year, and Lizzi also saw his player’s development each season. As a result, Jacob Bloom’s role continued to become more important to the team, as he began covering opponent’s tougher players each season.

Miller Place's Jacob Bloom reaches out his stick to keep a Comsewogue player at bay in a previous contest. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Miller Place’s Jacob Bloom reaches out his stick to keep a Comsewogue player at bay in a previous contest. File photo by Desirée Keegan

“He’s very tactical,” Lizzi said of Bloom. “When he’s playing defense, he’s always thinking about what he’s doing. He’s not going to super aggressive and be all over you, but he’s going to outthink you.”

The defender always had a plan, according to Lizzi, and was very organized and harped on the little things to make sure he was always at the top of his game.

“Being a smart kid, he was able to figure out people’s next move,” Lizzi said. “When you play defense, you have to react, and his mentality was, if he could figure out what the other kid was trying to do, he’d be in a good spot. He knew every year there was something different to improve upon. He made major strides every year as a result.”

Bloom also prides himself on this.

“Defense takes a lot of mental work and understanding what your opponent wants to do, and I’ve always prided myself on being a very smart player and having a good lacrosse IQ,” he said. “I watch plenty of film and I’m always studying the guys I’m covering.”

He improved in his stick skills, passing, catching, throwing, footwork and body positioning every season, which Lizzi said helped him stand out among other defenders who didn’t continue to work on the basics at the varsity level.

Bloom was also a leader on the team.

“He was so mature that it was like having another coach on the field, which helped us,” the coach said of his former co-captain. “He understood our game plans, our strategy and why we did what we did, so he was able to help some of the younger kids around him and from a leadership point of view, he was a great role model.”

Bloom’s contributions to the team, along with its strong offensive leaders, helped the Panthers earn a Suffolk County championship title in 2013, and reach the finals again in 2014, where the Panthers fell to Rocky Point, 6-4. This past season, the team fell in the second round of the playoffs to Eastport-South Manor, 12-7.

Bloom was named an All-County defenseman this season and also won the Panther Pride award, which is given to a player who exemplifies what a Miller Place athlete should be. He also earned the school’s defenseman of the year award and leadership award.

These qualities helped him earn the recognition of various colleges and universities. He ultimately chose to play at Marist, where he will be joining the Panther’s former co-captain and All-County defenseman Brett Osman and All-County and All-Division midfielder and co-captain Liam Walsh.

“I couldn’t be prouder for him to play Division I lacrosse,” Mark Bloom said. “Just to watch him grow and become a man and a leader on the field, I think that he’s only scratched the surface with his ability. I think he can go much, much further than even what he’s achieved and reached now.”

Jacob Bloom said he’s excited to play for a growing program and Marist’s head coach Keegan Wilkinson. He said he’s learned a lot along the way that he plans to take with him to the next level and said the camaraderie, fraternity and brotherhood created with some of the guys he’s known since third grade, and will be friends with for the rest of his life, has meant a lot to him.

“What I take from coach Lizzi would be to never be satisfied — you have to keep working and keep getting better,” he said. “No matter how good you think that you are, you can always be better. Working toward a common goal has taught me to work hard and I can achieve great things.”