Nike/US Lacrosse Boys' Northeast Season Rewind
by Will Cleveland | LaxMagazine.com
Year-End Top 10
Northeast Player of the Year
Mike D'Amario, Niskayuna (N.Y.)
Mike D'Amario clearly remembers the first time he tried to score a behind-the-back goal.
He was in second grade, breaking away, with no defensemen in his sight. Instead of simply of finishing, he tried to be flashy. He was pulled from the game immediately.
"It was the wrong way to do it," said D'Amario. "You should only take it when you need to or when you run out of angles. I could've finished easier. It was a valuable lesson."
Fast forward a decade and D'Amario is still one of the most creative players on the lacrosse field. Because of that creativity and with 82 goals and 38 assists in 21 games this spring, the left-handed Niskayuna attackman is the Nike/US Lacrosse Northeast Region Player of the Year. That included a seven-goal, two-assist performance against Colonie (N.Y.) and a five-goal, five-assist outing against Saratoga Springs (N.Y.). He led the Silver Warriors (19-2) to their third straight state semifinal appearance.
"It helps you get a little extra love, a little extra attention from the defenseman," said the 5-foot-11, 185-pound D'Amario. "It's not to be flashy. It's a creative way to score or pass the ball. Sometimes it is your best option. It's something you've got to perfect. It's not only fun, but it works."
In his two-plus decades as Niskayuna coach, Mike Vorgang said D'Amario scored more behind-the-back goals than everyone in program history combined. D'Amario's craftiness helped guide the Silver Warriors to new heights.
"He was our best offensive player," Vorgang said. "He's really good at mid-range shooting and really crafty. He did a lot of damage there, working around the goal and the crease.
"He is certainly one of the best, no doubt about that. He's super creative and fun to watch. We've never had a kid with a skill set. He's one of the best we've had here."
Coming from Section II (Albany area), the Silver Warriors were tasked with facing a Long Island team (from Section VIII or Section XI) in the state semifinals. D'Amario said his team relishes the challenge. "It's a burden we embrace," he said. "You've got to be the beat the best to be the best."
Niskayuna's season ended with a 23-9 loss to eventual state champ Massapequa (N.Y.) in the state semifinals. It's a burden that the team still shoulders, but D'Amario said there will "always be that bitter taste of losing. We are just hoping that one of these years it will fall through, and it will be great when we finally bring one home."
Vorgang said D'Amario's example will inspire future players at Niskayuna.
"He was the steadying force," Vorgang said. "Being on the team for so long, he's someone we can rely on, on and off the field. He always motivates and he's always ready to practice."
Vorgang said D'Amario really embraced and embodied the team's motto, "To be better."
"We wanted to be the best lacrosse players and also make sure we become better people," D'Amario said. "That's the biggest thing we accomplished this year, becoming better people and working hard in the classroom. This has been one of the most successful years in program history because of that. It will live on forever."
Because of his uniqueness as a player, the coaching staff at Niskayuna had to adapt. Niskayuna implemented the box-influenced two-man game this season to take advantage of D'Amario's skillset.
"The two-man game added a whole new dynamic to our offense," said midfielder Ryan Lawson, who was often tasking with running it with D'Amario. "It's almost like a basketball pick and roll where have to read the defense."
D'Amario will continue his lacrosse career in the fall at the University of Virginia. He said he is looking forward to playing with the likes of James Pannell, Owen Van Arsdale, and Greg Coholan. He looks to slide into the attack slot vacated by graduated All-American Mark Cockerton.
"To move from one prestigious program to another, it's pretty surreal," D'Amario said. "It's a great honor. I've loved every bit of my high school career. I've loved being on the field in late May, early June with my teammates. The best times I had were when I was struggling with my teammates, working out in the snow, rising to any challenge that comes. I can't wait for the next chapter."
The Monday after his team captured its first Connecticut Class L state title, Greenwich coach Scott Bulkley noticed a welcome sight: the core of his players that would be returning next year were already in the weight room.
"That shows how much they want it," said Bulkley. "They want to do what this class just did and they know it's going to take hard work in offseason. They are already working hard toward next season."
That graduating class of 10 seniors helped the Cardinals capture their first state title and cement them as one of the strongest programs in Connecticut.
"They all played integral roles in building this team and establishing the culture of this team," Bulkley said. "To have that big of a group that's played together for so long, it creates a foundation for the team. They are great kids on top of that, which makes it even more special."
Bulkley spent six seasons as an assistant at traditional Connecticut powerhouse Darien (Conn.) before taking the head coaching job at Greenwich in 2010. He was the first All-American in Darien history in 1991 and then went onto enjoy a stellar career at the University of North Carolina. Bulkley said his graduating senior class set the standard for future classes at Greenwich.
"The atmosphere and the environment here has totally changed in those five years. It takes a while to come in and change a lot of stuff," he said. "I finally feel like this is the first year where everything from top to bottom is pointed in the right direction. It took a while. It was really this core group of guys this year that really set the bar and set the standard that classes in the future will follow."
The graduating class includes midfielder Kyle Foote (Loyola), who finished with 28 goals and 25 assists and was named Connecticut High Schools Coaches Association Player of the Year. Luke Finneran and Jamie Paradise were two of the key cogs on offense, while defenseman Jack Harrington and Jack Nail anchored a stout defense.
But Bulkley is excited for the future with a returning group of players that includes rising seniors Michael Sullivan, a faceoff specialist, midfielder Decker Curran, goalie Tommy Rogan, and defenseman Griffin Tiedy.
"I think now you can legitimately say that our expectations are to win the FCIAC and compete to win the state championship every year," Bulkley said. "That's where the bar is set. Every team that comes in is going to want to beat that."
2014 Northeast Region Report Archive
- February 25 - Preseason Top 10/Player of the Year Watch List
- March 25
- April 1
- April 8
- April 15
- April 22
- April 29
- May 6
- May 13
- May 20
- May 27
- June 3
- June 10
- June 17
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