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Boys Lacrosse: St. Anthony's 2011 Preview

Two-time defending CHSAA champion Friars have the talent to threepeat.

Inside Lacrosse has them ranked fourth in the nation.

That’s all you need to know about the boys lacrosse team as it enters a new season with hopes of winning a third straight Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA crown.

“Expectations are high as a team,” senior midfielder Charlie Raffa said. “We have a lot of Division I players, a lot of talent, a lot of athletes and hopefully we’ll pull to together this season.”

What the Friars and coach Keith Wieczorek don’t have are many returning starters. But as Raffa rightly pointed out – with to Division I schools – the talent is there.

After getting ripped in a 14-8 loss to Chaminade early last season, St. Anthony’s regrouped and earned gritty 8-6 and then 9-8 wins over the Flyers, the latter a memorable title-game victory in overtime. It was the culmination of a 15-1 streak after the deflating loss to their rival.

Those expecting another St. Anthony’s championship had better check with Chaminade first.

“We haven’t won anything yet,” Wieczorek said. “Those rankings and what everybody is saying about us is based on last year’s team.”

Now if only the senior leadership can step in and maintain the forward momentum, then this program will enjoy a season in the national spotlight.

Last Season: 18-2 overall; 10-1 NSCHSAA.

Coach: Keith Wieczorek (12th year).

Top Players:

  • Charlie Raffa, senior, midfield
  • Christian Bennardo, senior, attack
  • Greg Danseglio, senior, defense
  • Joe LoCascio, senior, midfield
  • Adam Pomper, senior, attack

Position Breakdown: Midfielder Tom Schreiber fed attackman Colin Clive for the OT game-winner against Chaminade a year ago. They’re gone, along with most of the offense.

Loyola recruit Adam Pomper and Christan Bennardo (Villanova) didn’t see much time in crucial situations last season. But they have enough experience and the talent to translate into a prolific duo at attack.

“I like how our offense moves the ball,” Bennardo said. “Our middies and attack are jelling together. There were questions about them at the beginning of the season. But we’re coming together nicely.”

One of the key pieces will be the FOGO ability of the multitalented Raffa. The Maryland recruit will be charged with winning ground balls and keeping the Friars on the attack.

Maryland commitment Joe LoCascio shared the backfield with Raffa and helped deliver a in the fall. He’ll team up in the midfield and create plenty of opportunities in a wide-open attack.

On defense, three-year veteran Greg Danseglio anchors what may be the team’s strength. Matt DeLea is another strong defenseman. Yet it begins with Danseglio, a Virginia recruit with a great stick and star on the winning Long Island Under Armour All-American team over the summer.

“I make sure no goals go in on my goalkeepers and get the ball out to the attack right away,” Danseglio said matter-of-factly.

Expectations: Wieczorek has been involved as a coach since 1991, and his family legacy goes back to the beginning. His father helped start the program at the school as a club sport in the 1977. So no one has a better sense of where the program has been or where it’s headed.

He also has enough smarts to get out of the way and let his kids play.

“Let the ponies run,” Wieczorek said. “We’ve got the athletes.”

It’s an arms race in the CHSAA. Chaminade is loaded. After years on the brink, Holy Trinity has a senior-laden team eager to prove it belongs.

That’s where the intangibles come up big. Wieczorek’s charges may not have played extensively last spring, but so many of them had key roles on a championship football team in the fall. You cannot underestimate that success.

“Half the team played football,” LoCascio said. “We had a good football season. It translates well with chemistry. We came together as a family during football. So we’re all great friends outside of lacrosse. That helps.”

Key Games:

  • April 1: Delbarton, N.J. @ St. Anthony’s, 7 p.m.
  • April 5: St. Anthony’s @ Chaminade, 4:15 p.m.
  • April 12: Holy Trinity @ St. Anthony’s, 4 p.m.
  • May 11: Chaminade @ St. Anthony’s, TBA
  • May 14: St. Anthony’s @ Yorktown, N.Y., 1 p.m.

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