The joy was right there on all those faces. The Garden City and Manhasset players had their respective celebrations on Hofstra’s turf that same Sunday last June.

Garden City had become the victor over Victor in Class B. Manhasset ruled over Jamesville-DeWitt in Class C.

Both Nassau boys lacrosse teams had won back-to-back state championships.

At least one of them won’t win back-to-back-to-back state championships.

Garden City has new, quality company this season in B. Manhasset has moved up from C world.

The heavyweights will square off in the regular season at Manhasset in the annual Woodstick Classic on April 20. In the postseason, though, one won’t even get out of the county if both make the title game. And there’s a formidable South Side team that will hope to spoil both their championship team dreams.

“Playing [Manhasset] once is more than fine,” Garden City coach Steve Finnell said. “It is what it is. They’re back in the Bs . . . I think there’s three really good teams in the Bs this year amongst others. But I think those are the three elite teams, Garden City, South Side and Manhasset.

“But, yeah, it’s the oldest rivalry in the country, 1935. I’ve been part of it as a player and a coach now, an assistant coach and head coach for a number of years. It’s a unique experience when you play one time. It’s more intense I guess you could say.”

They’re in the same class for the first time since 2019 when Manhasset edged Garden City in double OT for the Nassau B title.

“It’s never easy with those guys,” Manhasset coach Keith Cromwell said. “From their coaching staff to their players, they do a phenomenal job . . . They provide a challenge, but I feel it’s a challenge that always brings the best out of our guys.”

Garden City’s guys are ready to embrace that challenge, too.

“It definitely makes things a lot more interesting,” senior defenseman and Princeton commit Matt Kephart said. “They’re a great program, great coaches, great players that we’ve played against growing up.

“I would say we’ve never been a team to shy away from a difficult game or adversity.”

A Garden City-Manhasset meeting for a county championship would qualify as a difficult game for both sides.

“If we make it there, I think it’ll be a pretty cool game,” Kephart said. “Two storied programs. But [there are] a lot of good teams in Class B and we’re not getting too ahead of ourselves.”

Manhasset, the Nassau C champ the past three years and currently ranked 10th in the country by USA Lacrosse, lost several talented players. But the defense has four starters back, including physical seniors Jack Mulholland and Jack Morrison. Senior goalie Matthew Im is a steady third-year starter.

“We have an extremely talented and experienced defensive side of the field this year, with a lot of guys who have played a lot of big moments here at Manhasset, and a lot of seniors that have been with us for two, three, four years,” Cromwell said. “So we’ve got a lot of experience on that side of the field that we’re going to be leaning on."

Junior Danny Kolin, who scored 34 goals in 2023, and senior Patrick Arnold are threats as attackmen. Senior midfielders Mikey Mondiello and Luca Petruccelli are three-year varsity veterans. Senior Rowan Collins and junior Arek Cellura have been disruptive as long stick midfielders.

“We want to be that last team standing in June in our conference,” Cromwell said.

The same for Garden City.

“We have some of our key guys back from last year, which is great,” Finnell said.

The Trojans, who have taken three straight county and Long Island crowns in B, are led on the defensive side by senior goalie Denis Fargione and senior defenseman Matt Kephart.

Lefty-shooting senior attackman Andrew Ottomanelli scored 42 times last season. Senior midfielder Carson Kraus has also been excelling offensively.

“We cross our fingers,” Finnell said. “We hope we’re the most balanced across the board. Manhasset loses a two-time All-American faceoff guy in Cal Girard, [Nassau] Player of the Year last year. South Side has the top faceoff guy [Michael Melkonian] back.”

Farmingdale, under new coach Eric Dunne, features All-America senior attackman Brendan O’Keefe and is going for a repeat in Nassau and Long Island Class A after making the state final.

Northport, under new coach Billy Cordts, is going for its fourth straight Suffolk A championship.

West Islip beat East Islip in the Suffolk B title round in 2023. But East Islip is looking like a stronger threat now.

Wantagh fell in the Nassau C final last season — to Manhasset.

Shoreham-Wading River is the defending Suffolk C champ. Coach Michael Taylor is especially wary of Bayport-Blue Point. But the Wildcats appear loaded again for a repeat attempt with 13 seniors returning.

“Almost our entire offense except for two players [are back], and we’re returning our starting goalie [senior Jaden Galfano] and our entire defense from last year,” Taylor said. “So I feel like we have the players to do it.”

The Wildcats’ top players are Duke-bound senior attackman Liam Kershis and Johns Hopkins-bound senior midfielder Liam Gregorek.

“Both of them are definitely premier players, not only on Long Island, but I believe probably in the country at the position, especially Liam Kershis,” Taylor said. “He’s truly a guy that everyone is going to have to be aware of because he’s just so commanding on the field.”

Cold Spring Harbor is the two-time defending Class D state champ. The Seahawks beat Mattituck/Greenport/Southold in the Long Island championship. It’s now just Mattituck/Southold, but the team has veteran defenders and is hoping for another shot.

And then there’s St. Anthony’s. The Friars are riding a streak of four straight CHSAA state titles and are No. 2 in the country in both the USA Lacrosse and Inside Lacrosse rankings.

By: Brian Heyman
X/Twitter: @bheyman99