by Brian Logue and Paul Krome
(Lacrosse Magazine) | read feature
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – As the Long Island Express team stretched during pregame warm-ups at the 2012 US Lacrosse Boys’ U15 National Championship, powered by Lacrosse Unlimited, the players kept looking to the other side of the field at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes team. You had to wonder if they were intimidated. It would be hard to blame them. The FCA team was big, had outscored opponents 83-22 in its previous six victories, and the FCA program had brought home US Lacrosse national championships in 2009 and 2010.
But then the first whistle blew and Express midfielder Joe Licciardi won the faceoff cleanly. Less than a minute later, Licciardi scored on a pass from Joe Froccaro and the Express was on its way.
“We’re never intimidated,” said Licciardi. “We always know if we play our best game, nobody can beat the guys in white.”
Long Island’s Tyler Dunn stretched the lead to 2-0 midway through the first quarter, but you could feel the momentum swinging late in the quarter. Henry Grass scored with just 17 seconds left in the first quarter for FCA and then they tied it just 27 seconds into the second quarter when Parke Schweiter scored.
Neither team scored over the next eight minutes, until James Thomas beat his man and drove the middle to score for a 3-2 Express lead. Licciardi won the ensuing faceoff, and then scored his second goal with just 46 seconds left to give the Express a 4-2 halftime lead.
FCA once again came back. Grass’ second goal of the game midway through the third cut it to 4-3 and then they tied it on an extra man goal by Aric Dupell just 28 seconds into the fourth quarter.
This time, it was Express attackman Paul Dilena stepping up. Dilena scored a huge goal with eight minutes left to give the Express a 5-4 lead, and then it turned into the Tyler Dunn show.
With 5:18 left, Dunn drove from behind the cage to the right wing under heavy duress and a series of checks by Jeffrey Kern, but found a way to get his hands free for a terrific shot and goal that gave Long Island a 6-4 lead.
“I wanted to shoot, but not do any crazy moves and just go to the net and score,” said Dunn, a rising sophomore at Manhasset High School.
That he did, and Dunn helped clinch the game with his third goal at the 3:39 mark, which gave the Long Island Express the final lead at 7-4, and its first national championship.
“I’ve been coaching for 25 years, and it never gets old,” said Express coach Mike Schwalje, who took over as the coach at Kellenberg Memorial High School (N.Y.) after a long run at St. Anthony’s as a head and assistant coach. “This is pretty special.”
“It’s unbelievable,” said Licciardi, a rising sophomore at St. Anthony’s. “You work so hard the whole year and it all pays off. Our coaching staff was great. It was an awesome experience.”
Dunn, one of six Express players named to the all-tournament team, had three goals while Licciardi had two goals. Express goalies Gregg Meyers and Joe McGuigan combined for five saves, while holding FCA to a tournament-low four goals after they came in averaging nearly 14 per game. Grass led the FCA offense with two goals.
In the third-place game, Parker Giarratana scored three goals and added an assist as Florida rallied past Norcal Talon, 9-8. He had a hand in his team’s last three goals, including a conversion of an Addison Lutes feed for the game-winner to break an 8-8 tie with 7:15 to play in the fourth quarter. Late in the third, Giarrantana scored unassisted at 1:08 and then fed Stephen Chase for the equalizer with just three seconds on the clock as Florida came back from a 7-4 third-quarter deficit. Joe Kissick made nine saves for Florida. Wiley Bonham led Norcal with three goals and Brook Rideau added two goals and an assist. Norcal Talon made it to the semifinals for the third straight year.
Earlier in the day, the Long Island Express advanced to the championship with a 10-2 victory over the Norcal Talon. Long Island led just 2-1 at halftime and 3-2 midway through the third quarter, but then scored the final seven goals of the game to pull away. Joe Licciardi, John Daniggelis and Paul Dilena each had two goals for the Express. while Wiley Bonham had two goals for Norcal.
In the other semifinal, Timmy Kelly had two goals and six assists, Henry Grass had five goals and two assists, and Grant Ament added four goals and two assists as FCA cruised past No. 13 seed Florida, 16-6. Grass scored the first two and Kelly had a goal and assist, helping FCA blank the Floridians in the first quarter, 6-0. Keith Mahler brought Florida within 6-1 early in the second, but Florida would get no closer. Joe Kissick made 10 saves for Florida.
We are PROUD to announce that six of our LI Express players made the 2012 National Championship U15 All-Tournament Team!
Tyler Dunn, Attack, Express (Manhasset H.S)
John Daniggelis, Midfield, Express(Smithtown East H.S.)
Joe Licciardi, Midfield, Express (St. Anthony’s H.S.)
Jack Goettelmann, Defense, Express (North Shore H.S.)
Joe McGuigan, Goalie, Express (St. Anthony’s H.S.)
Gregg Meyers, Goalie, Express (Syosset H.S)
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