Winning a state title isn’t supposed to be easy.
In theory, each opponent along the way is bigger and faster and stronger.
In reality, the uneven competition in boys lacrosse across New York state is one more obstacle to negotiate.
Lakeland/Panas was probably more prepared for Wednesday’s state semifinals than Yorktown or Pleasantville.
It’s hard to make the jump to light speed.
The Rebels had the benefit of being tested at the regional level, beating Shenendehowa and Valley Central in close games.
“You get this far, every team you’re playing is a sectional champion, so there shouldn’t be any cupcakes,” L/P coach Jim Lindsay said on Saturday after his team won a regional championship. “You should earn your way there. I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s fun. It’s exciting. Thank God this was not a one-goal game like we’ve been playing, but it’s good to get tested because it exposes you. We definitely were exposed on a couple of things here, so we’ve got something to work on in practice.”
The state tournament brackets are set up to ensure reasonable travel, so the Section 1 champions play Section 2 and Section 9. And if they win, the Long Island winner is up next.
Most years, Niskayuna is the one quality opponent in Class A.
No traditional power has emerged in Class B or Class C in Section 2 or Section 9, so end result is often running time.
Yorktown dispatched Burnt Hills 16-9 a week ago, then blew out Highland 17-3 on Saturday at Dietz Stadium. Pleasantville downed Greenwich 14-2 and thumped Rondout Valley 21-7.
Sure, it’s fun to unleash the reserves. They work hard and deserve a playoff moment, but the regulars from both teams have not played a full game since the Section 1 championship games back on May 25.
And now they have to hit the field running in order to keep up with Long Island powerhouses that all boast a healthy contingent of Division I commits.
“It’s probably the hardest thing these guys will be asked to do,” Panthers coach Chris Kear said after Saturday’s lopsided regional championship. “That’s why we talked a lot at halftime about executing our plays as if the game was tied. The hard part about that is we had such a big lead. You don’t want to get anybody hurt so you start subbing guys out. You risk getting somebody hurt if you keep them in the game so you can get your sets going. We’re just hoping we can have a really good couple of practices.”
Of course, that is rarely enough.
“You can’t simulate the speed and talent of the Long Island teams,” Kear added. “You just hope you come up with a good game plan.”
Very few teams from Section 1 survive the semifinals.
Long Island is known for two things: ridiculous traffic and outstanding lacrosse. The playoffs in Nassau and Suffolk are truly a grind. Ward Melville, Shoreham-Wading River and Cold Spring Harbor all came into Wednesday’s semifinals in stride.
So how do you counteract the inconvenience of lopsided playoff games?
“Practice,” Huskers coach Dave Marr said. “We’ve been preparing a majority of the last 365 days for this game.”
Having the ability to compete against skilled teammates on a daily basis is a bonus enjoyed by traditional powers. Having the credibility to schedule nationally ranked opponents also helps.
And when all else fails, there is time on the bus to pray for a couple of lucky bounces.