Positive start for Oceanside


Oceanside boys’ lacrosse had an interesting opening month under first-year coach Rob Blount, who spent 10 years guiding the middle school program while also turning the Sailors’ football fortunes around.

As it prepared for the Conference A grind with six non-league games, Oceanside played three one-goal affairs in March including 7-6 victories over Long Beach and North Shore.

“It was good to win two of them,” Blount said of the tight games. “All the teams we’ve played have tough and gritty kids like us. I thought our guys did an outstanding job.

“We came into the season thinking our offense would carry us,” he added. “But our defense is developing quicker than expected and we’ve been really good on faceoffs.”

Senior Luke Hickam provided the heroics against North Shore on March 30, completing a hat trick in overtime as the Sailors improved to 4-2. The four-year varsity attack bound for Army had 14 goals and seven assists in the opening month. He’s also a captain and coming off an All-Conference season. “Luke makes things happen,” Blount said.

Senior John Natoli is a returning starting attack as well and an experienced finisher around the cage. He ripped in six goals against both Mepham and MacArthur in March and like Hickam also has 14 tallies through six games. “John is one of the best athletes on the field every game,” Blount noted.

Operating from the X and serving as a playmaker is senior attack Ryan Downing, a quality distributor with good vision and instincts.

The Sailors are deep at midfield, led by senior captain Joe Kiesche. “He’s a throwback player and our best two-way middie,” Blount said of Kiesche, who was Honorable Mention All-County in 2018 and popped in six goals in March. Junior Liam Artus (eight goals, five assists) is big and physical with a strong catch-and-shoot game. He plays a vital role in man-up situations, the coach said. Sophomore Thomas Flavin is a hard-nosed middie who can score and feed. Forming a solid second set are seniors Jack Forbes and Jack Berkman, and junior Gunnar Johnson.

New to handing draws, junior Nick Platia, an All-County football player, is already making a huge impact according to Blount. Platia won 62 percent of faceoffs in March, highlighted by an 86-percent rate in the win over Long Beach.

Third-year goaltender KC Carlson, a junior, has been nothing short of spectacular in the early going. In the pair of one-goal wins, he totaled 31 saves. “He’s one of the better goalies in the county,” Blount said. “He’s well-rounded with quick reflexes.”

Senior Eddie Mannone, an All-Conference selection a year ago, returned to lead an otherwise unproven defensive group. Junior Joe Weidel and senior Kevin Artus have been impressive, Blount said, while handing some of the more difficult assignments. Junior Thomas Schmitt is contributing at long pole.

The Sailors finished 7-9 a year ago and suffered a first-round playoff exit. “We’re seeded fourth in Class A and getting a home playoff game is one of our goals,” Blount said.