Niskayuna lacrosse coach Mike Vorgang has some stories to tell his once-beaten Silver Warriors. One centers around his 2005 team that made it to the state championship game. The other is about his 2009 edition that made it back.
Those inspirational tales will likely be relayed sometime during today’s long bus trip to Hofstra University, or maybe in the lead-up to the Silver Warriors’ Class A semifinal with Massapequa.
“I haven’t mentioned those games yet. We’ve talked about what’s in front of our nose,” said Vorgang as he waited through a rain delay at Tuesday’s practice. “We’ve formulated a game plan, and if we execute, it doesn’t matter if it’s a Long Island team or a Westchester team, we’ll have a chance.
“We have the ability to do it. We’ve shown it.”
Niskayuna (19-1) is 2-4 in state semifinal games against Long Island competition, including a heartbreaking 10-9 Class B loss to Garden City last spring. Niskayuna also dropped a 9-6 Class A state semifinal to West Islip in 2012.
“It’s motivation for us,” said senior defenseman Jon Tiberio, who’ll be making his third final four appearance. “You usually don’t get three shots at something.
“We know we can do it. They’re beatable. We have to have our game at 100 percent. If we have our best game, we can do it.”
“We’re excited. We feel this could be the year we go all the way,” said Niskayuna sophomore midfielder Dylan Pantalone. “We’ve never won a state championshop. That’s what we’ve worked for.”
Niskayuna defeated West Islip in a 2005 Class A semifinal, 11-6, before a 15-2 loss to West Genesee. The Silver Warriors beat Sayville in a 2009 Class B semifinal, 15-8, before a 10-5 loss to Canandaigua.
“We need a complete team effort,” said senior attackman Mike D’Amario, who collected three goals and two assists Saturday when the state sportswriters’ No. 1-ranked team logged a 14-11 regional win over Lakeland/Panas. “It’s not all about the guns, but also the guys who do the dirty work.”
That would be guys like Tiberio and fellow defensemen Jake Miller and Pat Holmes, short stick defensive middies Reed Avveduti and Ron Sandroni, long stick defensive middies Jack Lennon and Jack Burns, and Pantalone, who will take the faceoffs.
“Details matter,” said Vorgang. “Execute on ground balls. Make the extra pass. Make the routine play. What we don’t want to do is give Massapequa extra possessions.”
Massapequa (Section VIII, Nassau County, 17-2) likes to push the pace after a turnover or a save by Matt Valdini. Valdini made 10 stops when Massapequa held off Smithtown East, 13-12, for the overall Long Island title Saturday.
“We’ve seen them play six times, and it’s the same thing. They play at two speeds,” said Niskayuna assistant coach Chris DeLano. “They’ll get the ball and push forward. They’re super frenetic. If something is not there, then they’ll slow it down.”
That up-tempo attack is one of Vorgang’s concerns. Massapequa has used it to generate double-digit goals in all but one game during its 15-game win streak.
“For us, we have to stop their fast pace of defense to offense. It’s going to be a challenge,” said Vorgang. “We want them to slow down and then we’ll deal with it. We want to play quality defense, make stops, clear it and play offense.”
“We’ve got to take away their transition,” said Niskayuna junior midfielder John Prendergast. “Offensive midfielders are going to have to play a little more defense.”
Massapequa’s defense gave up double-digit goals for the first time against Smithtown East.
“They’ve played a Long Island schedule all year. They’ve got a quality goalie and a quality defense. If we can get 10 goals, that would be great. Anything more would be gravy,” said Vorgang. “I talked to our offense today and we really need to play smart. In other games, a few turnovers may not affect the game, but in this game, they can make a difference. The most important thing on the field is the ball. We have to have it.”
Four different Niskayuna players have topped the goal chart during the postseason, with Ryan Lawson (36-33) scoring four goals against Lakeland/Panas, Prendergast (40-5) netting seven in a 14-7 Section II title-game win over Shenendehowa, D’Amario (78-37) netting four in a 13-2 win over Shaker and freshman Lu Quinn (34-17) getting four in a 21-5 win over LaSalle.
“That’s the best part about this team,” said D’Amario. “We have a lot of guys who can score and pick it up when another guy is off or is getting extra attention.”
Ian Kirby (38-29) had three goals against Smithtown East and had four in a 15-8 win over Syosset in the Section VIII final. Jim Byrns (45-19) and Craig Berg (20-43) are Massapequa’s other points leaders.
Fayetteville-Manlius (Section III, 17-3) and Fairport (Section V, 18-2) meet in the other Class A semifinal today at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. Saturday’s 11 a.m. title game is at Hofstra.