For a quarter century, Scott Craig and Bill Turri have been fixtures on the lacrosse field at West Islip High School.
On Thursday, the head coach and assistant coach respectively of the boys lacrosse team together celebrated win number 400 of their varsity careers as the Lions (15-1) finished the regular season with a 13-7 win over Connetquot.
Craig and Turri were able to share their milestone with the hometown crowd only because the heavy rains that fell earlier this week left the field at Connetquot High School unplayable.
“I’m not surprised that I’ve coached this long,” said Craig. “I figured I would stay with it until I retired and that I would get an award for longevity, but not one for excellence.”
Early on in Craig’s tenure, West Islip was a consistent playoff team, but could not get past teams like once perennial power Ward Melville and Northport, the latter of which had strong teams in the late 90’s and early 2000s.
“We lost to Ward Melville 19 straight times,” he recalled.
That losing streak would come to an emphatic end when West Islip defeated the Patriots 16-4 in a county semi-final game a decade ago, which Craig said was one of his top two memories.
“We would lose to (Ward Melville) close but could never get over that hump,” Turri recalled. “But one playoff win changed our fortunes and now we have a program that others aspire to.”
The other top memory for Craig was the Lions second state title victory in 2007 over perennial New York power West Genesee 9-4.
“West Genny has the most wins of any (high school) program in the nation and people were saying that year’s team was their best ever,” Craig recalled. “We not only beat them 9-4 but our best player, , hit the pipe five times and didn’t score.”
Turri is one of several of Craig’s former players to graduate from West Islip and go on to successful collegiate careers on the lacrosse field. Turri was a key part of Duke’s national title in 2010, was an All-American defenseman at North Carolina and has been a top scorer for C.W. Post at the Division II level and has also won a national championship.
But Craig declined to take credit for the success of these and other players.
“Kids like that are just so gifted,” he said. “All I do is hope to maintain and nurture the love they have for the sport.”