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After two qualifiers, the Northeast standings are logjammed near the top, with four teams in relatively close proximity in points. Tied for first, which coming as somewhat of a surprise, is Long Island – winners of the second qualifier and third-place finishers in the first tournament.
Long Island has played qualifier 7s plenty before, and they have about as an experienced 7s coach as anyone in Jerry Mirro, a longtime Atlantis man, but until this year they’ve not had the right mix to be successful.
“We just haven’t been at the top of the barrel. We were always one or two guys short. We didn’t have the depth,” said Mirro. “This year I’ve got everyone healthy except Keith Browe, center who cracked his collarbone at the Lehigh tournament. I’m 12-14 deep, interchangeable.”
Supplementing the usual cast of Long Island 15s players is a bevy of Stony Brook players (Mirro coaches Stony Brook), as well as some talent from Binghamton and Syracuse. Graduated Seawolves Andrew Kozak, Sean Rafferty, Michael St. Claire and John Feldman are all regular contributors for Long Island.
Most of those guys played for Long Island last year,too, but another year of development has done them well.
“Definitely the maturity is a huge plus, but you play at this high a level, you get a couple of years under your belt while you’re still young and now it starts to click, and they’ve all bought into the system, especially the fitness end,” said Mirro.
“But the depth is key. You’ve got five tournaments where it’s crazy competition and it goes by points. You’ve got to be there every weekend.”
There are three tournaments left on the Northeast circuit, so more than half the season. And Long Island is guaranteed nothing at this point, but they’re in a good position. So far, they’ve beaten Old Blue twice and lost to them once, and their only other losses came at the hands of Middlesex, in overtime, and Morris.
“It’s been a huge joint effort. This is definitely a throwback team. These guys are the real deal, and they’re very unselfish,” said Mirro. “This is definitely a team effort. I can’t pick anyone out to say he’s been outstanding. Across the board I couldn’t pick one guy out.”