Some of them met in kindergarten, quickly striking up friendships on the playground slide, or at circle time inside the classroom.
They started out like any other Manhasset kids, with names like Jack and Matt and Aidan and Cal and Liam, learning what their town was famous for, and by second grade started to pick up sticks and helmets and toss the ball around.
They began in the Manhasset Police Athletic League, where almost every boy starts, after breakfast at Manhasset Bagels and lunch at Orlando’s, to learn how to stickhandle and dodge and make saves.
It is a journey that takes more than a decade, but if everything goes perfectly, and the stars align, it ends like it did for 16 Manhasset boys on Sunday at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium: With a state championship win in their senior year.
Those boys grew up and made some Manhasset history, winning a second straight Class C state crown, crushing Syracuse-area Jamesville-Dewitt, 14-5 before hundreds of hometown fans.
Jack Peterson scored once and had three assists. Matt Cargiulo had three goals and an assist. Aidan Haggerty, sidelined for the entire 2022 title season by a knee injury that cost him a year, scored once Sunday after pumping in four goals in Friday’s semifinal win over Rye.
Cal Girard, the faceoff specialist and maybe the best in the state at his position, scored a goal nine seconds in to send Manhasset on its way. And Liam Connor, who’s now won three state titles in the past 16 months (he’s also a basketball player), scored one goal and two assists Sunday.
Sixteen seniors, all brothers in sticks and gloves, about to graduate with two state championship lacrosse rings.
“When that buzzer sounded, looking around at all these guys and getting to hug them after winning another state title, nothing better than that in the world,” Connor said. “To do this again, for our amazing town and all the people that support us, is the best feeling in the world.”
Manhasset (21-1) dominated the game Sunday literally from the opening faceoff against Jamesville-DeWitt, who has lost in the state title game three times in the past six years. Girard, who loses faceoffs as often as it snows in Hawaii, took the opening draw and raced down the middle before firing a low shot past Red Rams goalie Ian McIntyre.
Nine seconds into the game, Manhasset had a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“I could talk about that kid all year long, what he means to us and how good he is,” Manhasset coach Keith Cromwell said. “One of the best high school players I’ve ever seen, and to get us started like that, gave everyone a huge boost.”
The championship game was never close, as Manhasset led 4-1 after the first quarter and 7-2 at halftime. When defensive-minded midfielder James Lapina scooped up a groundball 70 yards from the J-D goal, raced untouched through the defense and scored on a bounce shot in the first quarter, it was clear that anything the Indians wanted to do Sunday, they could do.
“I couldn’t have done this with a better group of guys, and honestly it hit me in the fourth quarter that I’ll never play with these guys again, and it’s upsetting,” Cargiulo said. “But we knew today, for our last game, we had to win, for our families, and for our town.”
Manhasset lost only one game in the regular season, to Chaminade in the Regs Rock Classic, 10-9 on May 13. And while it may have looked like smooth sailing in the playoffs, there were bumps along the way.
In the Class C county title game, Wantagh played Manhasset tough for three quarters, trailing only by 1, 8-7, after the third before the Indians pulled away.
Then in the Long Island Championship game on June 3 at Stony Brook, Shoreham-Wading River played Manhasset close nearly the whole game, before Manhasset claimed an 11-6 win.
Then came this week, when the Indians thought they’d be playing a state semifinal game in Albany against Rye on Wednesday.
But poor air quality due to the Canadian wildfires led the game to be postponed to Thursday, then to Friday when the air finally cleared.
Fortunately, the Indians found out the night before both days that the game was postponed, so the team never left Long Island.
Just when Manhasset thought it would be good to go on Friday, hours of rain and lightning delayed its semifinal until finally getting going around 8:45 p.m. Friday night.
“It was frustrating and we were getting antsy but there was nothing we could do except be ready when the time came,” Connor said. “We’re sitting in the locker room, waiting, waiting, but we knew we only had two more days together so we just enjoyed being together.”
In that game Rye kept it close and trailed only 8-6 late in the third quarter, before once again the lockdown Manhasset defense, keyed by junior goalie Matthew Im, closed the door in a 13-6 victory.
Sunday, though, there were no tense moments, just a special group of kids winning the school’s sixth-ever state lacrosse title.
Of those 16 seniors, maybe nobody appreciated the ride more than Haggerty. In the third preseason practice of 2022, Haggerty tore an ACL in his knee, and missed 12 months of lacrosse.
He watched from the sidelines all season as his childhood mates restored Manhasset to glory.
“It was really rough, knowing I was there last year but couldn’t be a part of it,” he said in the delirium of postgame celebration Sunday. “But I knew when I was (rehabbing) that if I could get healthy, I could be back out here.
“To do this with these guys, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted in my life.”
After going 12 years between state titles, Manhasset has now won two in a row. What was it about this group that made it stand out from all the rest of the recent Indians teams?
“It’s hard to win championships, you know?” Cromwell, in his seventh year as head coach, said with a smile. “I’ve been privileged to coach with Bill Cherry and to coach a lot of great players here. Each season and each group is different, and you never know where they’re going to take you. This group, they just loved coming to practice, had great camaraderie, and zero off-field issues.”
The future certainly looks bright for Manhasset lacrosse as well, with a junior like Michael Mondiello (four goals on Sunday) and sophomores like Daniel Kolin (who poured in four goals in the semifinal win) prepared to carry the torch forward.
The competition may be tougher in future years, with Manhasset possibly moving up to Class B in 2024-25 (and putting longtime rival and fellow 2023 state champ Garden City squarely in its way).
But in the year that Manhasset lacrosse and football legend Jim Brown died, the 2023 group did his legacy, and those who came before them, proud.
“This always felt like a once in a lifetime thing, and now it’s happened to me twice,” Mondiello said. “It’s pretty unbelievable.”