State titles are nothing new for Mike Luce, but they are for Bayport-Blue Point lacrosse.
The Sachem alum won a state crown with the Flaming Arrows in 1993 as a sophomore and lost one in 1995 as a senior. When he took the Phantoms to the Class C New York State title game against Cazevonia this year, it just seemed right. Though Bayport-Blue Point lost, 14-6, it walked away with a Suffolk County and Long Island championship and a foundation to build on for the future of the program.
By the time he was a senior Luce and his peers started playing lacrosse year round.
“We were the first products,” he said. “A lot of schools weren’t doing that. It was us and Ward Melville.”
Luce said that came from coaches Rick Mercurio and Tony Petillo thinking outside the box.
He said the most proud moment of his lacrosse career came when Sachem beat Ward Melville in the county final his senior year. It rarely happens – in fact that was the only time it did during his varsity days – and when it did, it became a memory that will last a lifetime.
“We played them in summer, winter and the regular season and we never beat them,” he said.
Luce said Mercurio helped lay the groundwork for him and any success he’s had as a player and coach.
“When you’re high school coaches are on you, you don’t realize how much they’re trying to help,” he said. “I’ve seen what a winning program looks like.”
He played college lacrosse at Dowling and when they heard he was a Sachem product it meant something. By the end of his four-year stint he became an All-American. He had other stops before Bayport-Blue Point, coaching and teaching for a year at Brentwood where he led the JV squad, then at Central Islip as a substitute. Five years ago he took over at Bayport-Blue Point and has been the varsity coach ever since.
“We had good players,” he said. “We just needed a little direction.”
When Luce was in high school he thought Petillo was a mad man, like many others associated with the Sachem football and lacrosse programs.
“Always jumping, excited and yelling,” he said. “It’s exactly how I coach right now. That same intensity on the sideline, getting into every game, getting on the players. It’s a similar situation.”
Luce grew up in a program that was built on winning, which helped make history with Long Island lacrosse and produce some of the games most talented players. At Bayport-Blue Point the situation is different, but it’s ripe for change and the process has begun.
“It you look at the great programs they are used to winning,” he said. “They don’t go into every season with small goals, they have lofty goals.”
Luce has one goal for 2012 … a state title.