For one weekend, Greenport serves as a lacrosse mecca

It has become a summer tradition. For one memorable weekend of the year, the tiny Village of Greenport is transformed into a lacrosse mecca.

Some of the best lacrosse players on Long Island, if not the country, converged on Greenport High School this past weekend for the 17th annual Long Island Lacrosse Shootout. Ninety-three teams represented by some 1,800 players competed on seven fields set up at the high school in what amounted to a two-day lacrosse festival organized by the Long Island Metropolitan Lacrosse Foundation.

“This tournament is great,” said Billy Rebman, the former general manager for Team USA who coaches the TOBAY Fleasters. “It’s basically Long Island. That’s the nice thing about it. You don’t have to travel too far. You come to a great place on Long Island, on the eastern end, on the North Fork, and you get all these great players from Long Island, they all kind of congregate right here, which is fantastic.”

The Long Island Lacrosse Shootout’s genesis can be traced to a planned tournament on the South Fork that never materialized. Jimmy Howell, a member of the Long Island Metropolitan Lacrosse Foundation Board of Directors, said he was driving with his wife one day when he discovered a fine site to host the event: Greenport.

Why does Greenport work?

“The town, the people, the restaurants, and it’s a vacation” destination, Howell said. “It’s just not about lacrosse. It’s about coming out with the family and going to wineries, going down to Claudio’s, going out on boats. It’s a little more than playing the game and going home. They keep coming because they love it out here. They love it on the North Fork.”

It’s ironic that Greenport was chosen since the East End was the last area on Long Island where lacrosse had not gained a foothold. But now, lacrosse officials say, the sport is growing on the East End.

“These are the things you do as you try to advance the sport in your area,” said Ken Marlborough, who coached a North Fork Lacrosse seventh-grade boys team in the tournament. “In the last five years we’ve probably seen a 100 percent or doubling of the size of our youth program, which down the road is obviously going to mean that much more kids involved in school programs as well.”

As big as the Long Island Lacrosse Shootout is, it is getting bigger.

“Every year from the first, it’s grown, grown, grown, to the point that we have 30 teams on a waiting list right now to come out here, and we can’t get the field space,” Howell said. “I could probably bring a hundred youth teams out here. That would be over 2,000 youth, and over 800, 900 club [players]. Right now we’re restricted with what we have.”

Howell said the foundation is looking to obtain the use of an additional playing site, such as Strawberry Fields in Mattituck, in order to accommodate more teams next year.

“We’ve oversubscribed this year,” said John Phillips, the Long Island Metropolitan Lacrosse Foundation’s outgoing president. “If we had more fields, we could have taken more teams.”

The range of players is vast, spanning from third/fourth-grade teams to club teams with current or former college players to masters teams for players ages 30 to 50.

“There’s a lot of tournaments across the country throughout the summer, but this tournament is special because you have the prime lacrosse players in the area on Long Island, so you’re getting the best of the best,” said Bryan Daddio, a midfielder for Duke TOBAY.

Rebman said: “The competition is as good as anywhere you’re going to find in the country. We have some very, very good talent out here.”

For many of the players, there is the convenience factor of competing against high-level competition while essentially playing in their own backyards. Still, not many players had less distance to travel to Greenport than Bryan Hale, a midfielder for Dapps Tavern. Hale played for Riverhead High School before going on to play for Sienna College.

“You’re consistently playing, one [game] right after another,” he said. “It’s great. There are kids from [Johns] Hopkins, Syracuse, the best schools in Division I, II or III — all over.”

In many cases, players are running into familiar faces they have lined up against in other competitions.

“I see a lot of players I recognize from all over Long Island,” said Patrick Reilly, a midfielder for the Huntington Blue Devils. “There are tons of good players out here.”

Marlborough said: “This is really what lacrosse is all about. The tournaments add a whole new dimension to the sport because there are so many teams there, so many parents, so many coaches, all at one time, and it’s really a neat atmosphere.”

What makes the Long Island Lacrosse Shootout unique?

Said Anthony Santamaria, an attackman/midfielder for Duke TOBAY, “It’s Greenport.”

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