HUNTINGTON STATION, New York, May 21
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
Teams can be built upon youth – as the 2015 Wildcats boys lacrosse team was – but most teams are defined by the veteran leadership brought to the table by seniors.
Helping Walt Whitman claim its second-straight playoff berth, those seniors had their final season as Wildcats come to an end on May 15 after a 16-9 defeat at the hands of Connetquot.
Jaron Batts, Andre Harris, Sean Wuestman, Sam Zakow, Mike Fiordalisi, Benjamin Castillo, and Kabir Zafar are now set to graduate from the program, but in their swan song, they helped the Wildcats to another successful season.
On May 15, that season culminated with a first-round matchup against no. 3 Connetquot (14-2) in the 2015 Division I playoffs.
A major contender in League I this season, the Thunderbirds of Connetquot proved to be too much for the Wildcats to handle as they jumped out to a 12-6 lead at halftime. No. 14 Whitman (9-8) outplayed the Thunderbirds in the fourth quarter, but the deficit was too large to overcome and the Wildcats fell by 7 goals.
One senior, Batts, got onto the scorecard as he contributed 1 goal and 1 assist for the Wildcats. Elsewhere, Whitman’s offense was powered by juniors Scott Manning, who scored 4 goals, and Colin O’Hara, who scored 1 goal and added 3 assists. Another junior, Matt Stockfeder, produced 3 goals while Spencer DeRosa and Anthony Palazzolo each added 1 assist.
In net, Shane Brennan recorded 6 saves.
Regardless of the defeat, the Wildcats enjoyed a successful season in order to secure themselves a playoff spot.
The team started out hot as they jumped out to a 3-0 record in League II play as the season began in late March and early April. From there, the Wildcats slid slightly as they challenged some of the top talent in League II.
Perhaps the team’s best game of the season, however, came against an undefeated West Islip team on April 24. The Wildcats upset the Cougars 6-5 in what head coach Bob Howell said was the program’s first win over West Islip since 1991.
The Wildcats later clinched a playoff berth in their second-to-last League II game of the season with a 14-6 victory over North Babylon.
Though Whitman now says goodbye to its senior group, a mix of young talent remains and is expected to return next season. Manning, who earned All-League honors, led the Wildcats’ offense through League II play with 37 points; O’Hara followed him up with 33 points; and Stockfeder, an All-County player, added 32 points as a part of the three-headed monster that sustained Whitman.
Also returning is Brennan, a talented goaltender who allowed a total of just 35 goals in Whitman’s nine wins this season. The junior was awarded All-County honors this season and named the “Most Outstanding Goalie” for League II, Howell said.
Palazzolo earned the “Unsung Hero” award, Howell said, and the team’s face-off specialist, Joe Neumann, earned “Rookie of the Year” honors.
Originally published: Long Islander News: The Long Islander
(Thursday, May 28, 2015; A39)