South Side tops Manhasset for county title

Cyclones win first championship since 2004


With South Side in search of a long-awaited county title, Michael Melkonian delivered a nearly perfect game to help the Cyclones lift the championship trophy.

The Cornell University commit won 23 of 24 faceoffs to help South Side dominate time of possession in an 12-10 win against Manhasset Friday evening in the Nassau Class B boys’ lacrosse finals at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium that brought home the program’s first county crown since 2004.

“This means so much to me,” said Melkonian, a senior midfielder who six months ago celebrated another county championship on that same Hofstra turf with the South Side football team when it knocked off Floral Park in the Conference III title game marking that program’s first title since 2001. “We’re not done yet and we want to keep this going.”

The Cyclones’ first county championship in 20 years advanced them to the Long Island Class B finals against East Islip Wednesday evening back at Hofstra with a berth in the state tournament at stake. 

Melkonian’s mastery on draws helped swing momentum in South Side’s favor with a 5-0 run to close the first half after trailing 5-2 midway through the second quarter. After Cullen Lynch gave South Side the lead on an unassisted goal with 8.5 seconds left, Melkonian won the ensuing faceoff and assisted Griffin Mills on a buzzer beater goal for a 7-5 halftime lead.

After Manhasset scored the next two goals to tie it 7-7, Cullen Lynch gave South Side the lead back on an unassisted tally with 5:35 remaining in third quarter. Owen West then gave the Cyclones the lead for good, snapping an 8-8 tie with 9:49 left in the third quarter when he snuck in a shot from close range from the right side of the net.

Senior midfielder Cole DiPietro netted a key insurance goal, his second of the afternoon, just over a minute later followed by a Michael Aiello score with 7:27 left for an 11-8 lead. Aiello then helped ice the championship on a late empty net goal as Manhasset was pressing defensively trying to force a turnover. 

“This means the world as we put so much work into it,” said longtime South Side coach Steve DiPietro, who was also leading the sidelines at Shuart Stadium for the Cyclones’ last county title triumph 20 years ago and eventually a state championship. “We've been to 15 final fours and a few championship games, but we hadn't been able to get over the hump and to be able to do it with this group means everything.”

Aiello, Lynch and West all registered three goals apiece. South Side’s defense in front of goaltender Michael Muscarella was led by Patrick Mullin, Will O’Toole and Michael Grossman. Connor Sheerin had four goals for Manhasset.

South Side (17-1) rolled to the championship with a veteran squad featuring 27 seniors with just one regular-season loss to eventual Class C champion Wantagh. The Cyclones next turn their attention to East Islip in the Long Island title game which will mark a rematch of sorts from last November’s Long Island Class III football championship.

East Islip (17-1) has 22 players from its football team that defeated South Side, 19-14, while the Cyclones have 19 who were part of that heartbreaking defeat.

“Certainly our athletes are all familiar with each other,” Coach DiPietro said of the football connection. “Getting past East Islip is not going to be an easy feat at all, but the boys will be ready.  We've already accomplished something that no one can ever take away from them and now it’s a matter of enjoying the time we have together and why not try and win the whole thing.”