From an athletic standpoint, coach Matt Antoniou believes the Valley Stream District boys’ lacrosse team has the talent to compete with anybody.
And while Antoniou said that victories in key upcoming matchups could be the difference maker in determining if they sneak into the playoffs for the first time in years, he acknowledged that it will be their consistency playing fundamental lacrosse that will make or break their season.
“We’re major athletes. When we play smart, and don’t give the other team anything, we can play with anyone,” said the first-year coach. “When we don’t pick up the ground balls and we have a lot of turnovers, we lose.”
That contrast has shown in the early parts of the season. At 3-4 overall and 0-1 in Conference A, Valley Stream has been outmatched in its losses, dropping the four games by an average difference of 10 goals.
But in their victories, the athleticism has shone through. Antoniou pointed to a nonconference road game against a tough Sewanhaka squad on March 21, a back-and-forth battle that Valley Stream won 12-11, as a sign of what his team is capable of. “We came in and we played well,” said Antoniou. “Even the referees came up to me at the end and said, ‘That was a well-played game of lacrosse.’”
One of 13 teams in the conference, Antoniou knows a postseason berth would be a challenge. But he has his eyes on a few key games that, if they go Valley Stream’s way, could allow them to nab a spot. Those games include two matches against Hempstead on April 9 and 16, a home game versus Freeport on April 23, and their penultimate matchup at Uniondale on May 1.
“If we make the playoffs, that is a huge step for us,” Antoniou said. “Getting these kids the experience of a playoff game, that would be a great start where we can start building a program.”
Off the field, Antoniou praised the character and work ethic of his players. Between the sidelines, he highlighted senior Aidan Duggan, an attackman and midfielder, as the centerpiece of his offense. “He plays everywhere,” the coach said. “We’re going as far as he can take us.”
Senior midfielder Christian Rodriguez, described by Antoniou as the “whole package,” has the potential to be a game-changing player when he’s playing at his highest level. On defense, the coach praised senior Joe Muson who, he said, is playing at an All-County level.
And he heaped extra praise on his keeper, junior William Ehrlich, who switched positions from attackman a year ago. “He’s literally keeping us in games,” Antoniou said. “He’ll do anything to help us win.”
As they enter the thick of their conference schedule in the final month of the season, Antoniou said he is excited to see his team finish strong. “I expect us to get better and play better lacrosse,” he said. “As long as we keep getting better and stop making the same mistakes, that to me is success.”