Don’t count the South Fork boys lacrosse team out just because of a jump to Division I.
Head coach Matt Babb said despite high enrollment resulting in his Islanders being placed in a league with powerhouse teams like 10-time state-champion Ward Melville and five-time winner West Islip, they’re looking to remain competitive.
“This isn’t a growing year,” he said. “As we’re building, we’re still looking to compete now. We feel we have the tools necessary.”
Six players graduated from last season’s squad, comprised of athletes from Southampton, East Hampton, Bridgehampton, Pierson, and Ross, including the Islanders’ entire starting defensive line, a starting attackman, backup goalie, and a utility man.
“This year we’re going to surprise some people, because although we’re young, most of my players, who are sophomores, have either two years of junior varsity or varsity under their belts. They’re experienced,” Babb said. “They’re seeing significant time, and I think we’re going to have a balanced offensive attack.”
The Islanders will be led by senior captains Brian Damm of East Hampton on offense, Jack Ulrich, also of East Hampton, at midfield, and Southampton’s Jackson Marcincuk on defense, who is taking a step back from midfield. His coach said once his player got a long pole in his hands, he became the team’s top defender.
“He’s been on varsity since he was a sophomore, and he understands what we’re looking for on the defensive side,” Babb said. “We thought it would be a good transition for him.”
Damm, the team’s returning leading scorer, is just one of the team’s top threats.
“He has a great right-handed shot — it’s the hardest shot on our team, and he’s pretty accurate with it,” Babb said. “In man-up situations, he’s the one we’re really looking for.”
Southampton sophomore Luke Marro, named All-County last year, is a do-it-all player who his coach is hoping will develop into a top scorer this season.
“Last year he was facing off for us even though he’s not a real faceoff guy, and did well, led our team in ground balls. He was probably one of the top ground balls guys in the county, with nearly 100 ground balls last year,” Babb said. “He was second or third in scoring and assists last year.”
The Islanders are still stressing development on defense, especially in practice, being less experienced on that side of the field, with many first-year varsity players joining Marcincuk and Pierson sophomore goalie Hudson Brindle, a starter last season who is currently injured.
“We’re hoping they see what’s out there in front of them,” Babb said, referring to his team’s first Division I game, a 14-3 loss to Connetquot March 22. The Islanders hosted North Babylon March 26, but results were not available by press time. The South Fork team hosts Smithtown East next, Thursday, March 28, at 4:30 PM.
“I think the loss to Connetquot opened the eyes of some of the kids, realizing what they have to do in practice, because now we see what the competition is like,” Babb said.
“We warned them, but it’s hard for them to really know because they haven’t seen anything else. There are faster teams than what we’re used to. We have to step our game up, but even in Division I, we’re going to compete with more teams than we have in years past,” Babb added.