HUNTINGTON STATION, New York, April 9
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
Age is just a number, especially on the Whitman lacrosse field.
That’s how Head Coach Bob Howell of the Wildcats boys lacrosse team feels, anyway, especially when asked about this year’s squad – a team with just nine seniors, but overflowing with talent.
Not only has that combination gotten the Wildcats (5-0) off to an undefeated start in 2015, but it has Whitman’s coaching staff expecting big things.
“We’re pretty excited about the season; we’re a very young team, but we’re also very talented,” Howell said. “We haven’t really gotten into the strength of our season yet… but we have some outstanding players.”
One of those players is junior attacker Scott Manning. In Whitman’s most-recent win – 15-3 over Bellport (1-2) on Wednesday – Manning contributed 5 points for the Wildcats on 1 goal and 4 assists. As of Wednesday, Manning is Whitman’s points leader with 27.
Colin O’Hara, a junior, led the Wildcats in scoring, however, against Bellport with 4 goals and 2 assists. Jaron Batts, a senior playing in his season debut after battling an injury, chipped in with 3 goals, adding his name to the list of 11 Wildcats to make the scorecard.
“He has a tremendous lacrosse IQ,” Howell said of Batts.
Shane Brennan – “the best goalie in Suffolk County,” according to Howell – was steady in the net as the junior recorded 13 saves.
“Right now our strengths are in the goal and in the midfield… one of the best midfields in Suffolk County,” Howell said. “We’re building around those things and our faceoff [expert], Joe Neumann.”
Neumann, a freshman midfielder, was a perfect 19-for-19 on face-offs in Whitman’s latest triumph over Bellport.
There was a scary moment in that game as one of Bellport’s players had to leave the game in an ambulance after enduring a hit that left him motionless on the turf at Walt Whitman High School for several minutes. Suffolk County police later confirmed that the 16-year-old player was taken by the Huntington Community First Aid Squad to Huntington Hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries.
Looking forward, the Wildcats have their eyes set on the playoffs. After a 2013-2014 playoff run left the Wildcats eliminated with a loss to Smithtown West in the Suffolk Class A quarterfinal, Whitman is expecting nothing less but to get back there.
“That’s what we work for, that’s our goal: to get into the playoffs,” Howell said. “Not only do we want to make the playoffs, but we want a seed high enough where we can get a bye.”
This year, as Section XI alters its playoff qualifications, a record of .500 or better will get Whitman back into the playoffs.
The Wildcats’ next attempt to inch closer to that mark will come on Friday against Smithtown East (4-0), one of Long Island’s best teams; the game is scheduled for 1 p.m. on the turf field at Walt Whitman High School.
Originally published: Long Islander News: The Long Islander
(Thursday, April 9, 2015; A42)