By Chris Goldberg
TopLaxRecruits.com, Posted 6/19/13
Ward Melville, which rolled to the New York Class A state championship with a perfect record, has been named No. 1 team in the final TopLaxRecruits.com Boys’ Rankings.
The Patriots, who were not considered a state favorite before the year, went 22-0 and were barely challenged the entire season. They were dominant in the post-season, handling Smithtown West, 11-6, and Massapequa, 12-3, to win the Long Island championship and later routing West Genesee, 16-4, for the state crown.
Ward Melville was know as an elite scholastic program for many years in the 1980s, ’90s and early 2000s. It has won eight state titles – and current head coach Mike Hoppey was an assistant for three of the undefeated champions. Hoppey, head coach for eight years, said this Ward Melville team may rank as the best of them all.
“I was an assistant for three undefeated state champions, but we never had teams play this consistently,” he said. “We played 22 good games this year.
“We never worried about (setting) goals this year. We didn’t focus on a state championship or a national championship. We just focused on each game.
“Certainly score-wise, game to game, this was probably the most dominant team we’ve had.”
Did Hoppey see this juggernaut coming before the year started?
“Going into the season, we had a lot of questions,” said Hoppey, whose Patriots were Suffolk County finalists in 2012. “We really only had four full-time starters back, and two superstars (senior midfielders Jack Bruckner and Christian Mazzone).
“We had about six seniors that didn’t play a lot as juniors and we added to that three very, very good sophomores that made contribution.
“That said, all year the sum was greater than the total. Everybody did their part and we kept getting better and better.”
Another big key was the development of senior goalie Dan Nemirov.
“We hired a goalie coach, Scott Graham, and he worked with him,” said Hoppey. “If he was not the best goalie on Long Island, he certainly was one of the best. We got consistently great goaltending all year and that made a huge difference.”
“And Coach Chris Muscarella worked with the defense. We had one returning starter and yet they gave up four goals a game using all different types of defenses.”
The capper was the 16-4 blitz of traditional Upstate power West Genesee in the title game – a contest that had lacrosse fans in awe.
“You always save your best for last,” Hoppey said “I was watching the game on film and laughing at how we played so well.
“It was almost surreal the amount of brilliant plays we made, and the lack of mistakes. It wouldn’t have mattered who we played that day, it was such a high level.”