STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Whatever it took to make history, Kennedy Catholic’s boys lacrosse team did it as it strived to bring home the school’s third city championship in a row in 2017.
“This was one of the hardest working teams we’ve ever had,” co-coach Vin Savastano said. “We felt like we didn’t have as much talent as some of the other teams, but we had to out-work them. Down the stretch, we worked the kids hard and they really rose to the occasion.”
The Gaels (8-7) played a rigorous out-of-section schedule this season and knocked off Monsignor Farrell in the CHSAA Class A title game, 7-6, on May 16 in Staten Island.
“Every year we don’t want to let it down since we did it (won the city championship in 2015),” Savastano said. “We always tell the kids, ‘How do you want to be remembered when that snapshot is taken of the team in years to come?’ It put a lot of pressure on them and they did a great job.”
Allowing the host Lions to score two goals within the final minute to tie it, Kennedy’s Wyatt Rumpf snatched the face-off before a quick timeout.
Junior midfielder Greg Brann, a team captain, arose from behind the goal, drawing out the opposition’s top defenseman and flicked in the game-winning goal with 8.9 seconds to spare as the Gaels finally got revenge against the school that beat them three regular seasons in-a-row.
Although this year’s bunch could not quite duplicate the state championship banner of Kennedy’s 2015 team, it gritted until the end of an 8-7 defeat to Long Island champion Holy Trinity in the state finals.
Finding themselves down 6-2 early on, the Gaels stormed back to cut the deficit to one goal late in the fourth quarter before running out of time.
“We battled all year and are real proud of our kids,” Savastano said. “We feel like that city championship was amazing to get and it made our whole season worthwhile when Greg Brann scored that goal with 8.9 seconds to go. We know that each year we are going to have a chance.”
Co-coaches and brothers Vin Savastano and Nick Savastano have each been coaching varsity lacrosse for over 20 years, but both knew this group had enough leaders to make a splash.
“We always say that you’re as good as your senior leadership,” Vin Savastano said. “Kids like Nico Quartironi, Ryan Joyce, Matt Clark and Liam McManus have been in the battles being on the team for four years and have won a state title.”
The Gaels’ MVP Clark led them with 57 goals, 18 assists and 75 points as a forward. Sophomore Jack Zona tallied their first three goals of the city championship game and finished the season with 28 goals and 29 assists.
Junior midfielders Aidan Dooley, Brann, Tommy Young and Bryan Szpindor all served as pillars of the offense this year.
With Vin in charge of the defense, and Nick facilitating the offense, Kennedy’s players mastered 40 different plays to perfection.
Leading the defense were the senior captains Quartironi, Joyce and McManus. Sophomore Brandon Gibson and freshman Chris LoRusso helped anchor the defense. LoRusso earned the team’s rookie of the year award for excelling in place of an injured McManus earlier in the season.
Senior Rosario Grasso and junior Brendan Earl split time in goal during the regular season, but it was Rosario who won the job for the playoffs to bail the Gaels out time and time again. Key defensive midfielders included senior Ryan Panny, senior Mark Eliseo and senior James Peterman.
“We feel like we are getting kids from neighboring towns to come over and play for us,” Vin Savastano said. “At some programs you sit on the bench or play JV a few years waiting for an opportunity, but at Kennedy you can step right in and play.”