Long Island Box Lacrosse – Turf Island
What’s up LaxAllStars? My name is Joe Vitale and I am currently a senior midfielder and captain for Adelphi University (NCAA D2) out of Lynbrook, N.Y. I also grew up in Lynbrook, and there was no shortage of lacrosse. With nets and fields everywhere, legendary coaches, and many great alumni, I can truly say growing up there has played a huge role in the success I have had in my lacrosse career so far. What has been even more influential in my lacrosse career has been box lacrosse, or in my case, box lacrosse with some modifications.
My uncle, Donnie Borges, played high school lacrosse for Lynbrook as well; he later went on to CW Post, then to the New York Saints (indoor) and the North Hempstead Lacrosse Club (outdoor, no MLL at the time). In 2008 he was inducted into the long island lacrosse hall of fame. In September of 2007 he opened up Turf Island Indoor Sports Facilityin Oceanside, New York. Essentially it is a 50 x 25 yard turf field (approx) enclosed space with hockey boards and clear glass.
Almost immediately after opening, my uncle, along with good friend Jim Dellarocca, and lacrosse legend Pat McCabe, started an open box league with 5 by 5 goals instead of the traditional 4 by 4s. It is 5 on 5, all short sticks, up and down lacrosse. And it was an immediate hit, especially for me. The open box league has played a CRITICAL role in the development of my lacrosse skills. At the time when the league first started I was a senior in high school, it was football season and my uncle told me and my friend, Mike DeNapoli (currently at Hofstra), and former teammate to come down after football practice and play with his team in the league.
I decided to suck it up and go down and play even though it was football season. This has proven to be one of the best moves I have ever made. I immediately fell in love with it. The game fit my playing style perfectly. As you can imagine growing up with my uncle, who played professional box lacrosse, I am a predominantly, and I do mean predominantly right-handed player. In high school at Lynbrook to now at Adelphi it has stayed the same. I do not believe I would be able to get away with being a predominantly one-handed player without the box league. The smaller space called for better stick skills, which I have always prided myself on since I was a little kid growing up. When I was little I was the short chubby kid but always had great hands and stick skills. So immediately I found success in the tighter spaces. Smaller nets also meant better accuracy.
As I played more and more box my skills kept developing, but not only were skills developing but also the shape it got me in was awesome. The fall went on and I kept playing, twice a week, 2 hours a night, playing for my team and then whatever other team might need me. The knowledge I was picking up for the game from my uncle and Pat McCabe is something I am grateful for to this day. That spring after playing box nonstop up until pretty much the first day of my senior season, I exploded and had 43 goals and 45 assists, receiving “all American nominee” (which replaced honorable mention all American) as an attackman.
In that same year Mike DeNapoli was Nassau County’s midfielder of the year, all American, and all long island. With my uncle training us since we were little with his box lacrosse background, then getting to play box lacrosse with him and Pat McCabe for a couple months before our senior season, I truly believe it had a lot to do with the players we were that year and the players we are now. Currently he is in his senior season at Hofstra, and I am in my senior year at Adelphi, where we are coming off of a year where we were runners up in the national championship game, and I was a first team all American midfielder, putting up 40 goals and 30 assists.
Ok, enough about me and the success I have had from playing box lacrosse, lets talk about the current scene!
Currently the league has grown with more college players showing up every year. Now there is also one night during the week where anyone can come down and play pick up games. In December when everyone is home from college it is packed with players from all over long island. From major D1 schools to smaller D2 and D3 schools. This trend is the same in the summer when there is no orgnized league, just open pick up games. Some big names have made their way to turf island to play in a pick up game. From college, MLL stars and legends such as Chris Fiore, Tim Goettelmann, and Pat McCabe, to current phenomenal college players and regulars like Joe Herman, Shane Wynn, and Mike Channenchuk, there is definitely no shortage of firepower. Dell (Jim Dellarocca) does a great job of organizing the games and the runs usually turn out to be pretty fair.
Currently the fall league is in its 5th year of existence. Right now there are 4 very competitive teams. Hopefully, with this exposure, by next year we can see that number grow to 8 or more teams. In the 4 weeks the league has been going this year currently the Turf Island Oilers stand in 1st place at 4-0. That team consists of my uncle Donnie Borges, Pat McCabe, myself, and in net is Jim Dellarocca who is a brick wall. Team Lacrosse Unlimited is in second place led by their incredible goalie Kyle Overs and Mike Channenchuck. This is there first year in the league so they are only going to get better as weeks go on. In 3rd who I believe to be the most dangerous to knock off the Oilers are the Sticky Bandits. They consist mostly of Nassau Community College alumni. Lead by the stellar play of their big guns Joe Herman, Ryan Amengual, and Shane Wynn, this team poses a huge threat to the Oilers and Lax unlimited in the upcoming weeks. Finally, in 4th place we find the Thundercats who are 5 year veterans of the league, and they are led by Syracuse alum Tim Harder.
Games take place on Monday nights at 8 and 9pm. In the coming weeks I will check back In with Connor to let him know how everything is going and share some pics! As you can see I am a huge advocate of box lacrosse. In the coming years I think box lacrosse in America is going to boom. In order for it to grow, knowledge of the game has to be spread around. Unfortunately, on Long Island the NLL teams have never made it. I think that restricts growth of the game a little bit because the younger kids never get to see a professional box lacrosse game. What box lacrosse does have going for it
though is the speed. Right now the speed of the college game can be brutal and boring to watch. Kids sometimes become robots and the coaches’ pawns; basically the game can be way too over-coached.
The skill and creativity box lacrosse requires is a major advantage that it has going for it. The Shot clock and nonstop action up and down make for an entertaining experience when watching even if you don’t play the sport. With Long Island being the hot bed it is for lacrosse, I don’t see why box lacrosse wouldn’t take off here. Some of the best players to play the game ever are from here. Turf Island can help with the growth of the sport in a major way. If some bigger names of the MLL such as Matt Danowski come down and play, then younger kids will see him playing boxla on long island and will start saying to their parents that they want to play box lax as well.
Ultimately that’s what its about spreading the knowledge to the kids because they are the future. With the NALL starting up who knows what is in store for the future, personally I am hyped about that because it grows the game and provides more places to play post collegiate lacrosse.
Pat and my uncle have also just started an introduction of box lacrosse to 6, 7, 8, and 9th graders, which runs on Sunday nights for 2 hours. They made a call to one of their old buddies and got a hold of the nets they used to practice on with the NY saints, the true 4×4 nets. I haven’t gotten down there to check it out but from what I am hearing it is very successful. This is huge for the future because, like I said earlier, that is where it all starts with the kids.
With the help of people such as my uncle, Pat McCabe, LaxAllStars (along with myself now!), and maybe some current MLL stars we can start spreading more knowledge of boxla on long island and to Americans playing just field lax. Let’s make it happen!