Generational Talent Joey Spallina Made Everyone — Even Other Coaches — Better

PHOTO BY PHIL ARMATO


The spotlight and the pressure have been on Joey Spallina since practically the first time he picked up a lacrosse stick.

He made ESPN’s “SportsCenter” at 8 years old for some trick shots during the 2011 MLL All-Star Game Freestyle Competition and was the MVP of the inaugural World Series of Youth Lacrosse as a 12-year-old playing up a few years.

Spallina became the first player in Long Island history to be named an All-American as a freshman, the top-ranked recruit in the nation and the first high school lacrosse player to sign an NIL deal.

The Mount Sinai (N.Y.) attackman has thrived under those bright lights, becoming Long Island’s all-time leading scorer this season and a three-time All-American.

Spallina’s going to Syracuse, where he’ll wear the famed No. 22 jersey and deal with more pressure and more scrutiny. And he’ll do so as the USA Lacrosse Magazine Northeast Boys’ Player of the Year.

If there’s anyone uniquely qualified to handle such pressure, it’s Spallina, whose thirst to be the best won’t soon be quenched.

“It’s like every day somebody's chasing you,” Spallina said. “Once you stop, you get caught.”

That’s why he’s up every morning at 5 a.m. — earlier on “Conditioning Fridays” — to work out. He shoots almost every day, as well as before and after practice, and he meticulously dissects film — of opponents, of goaltender tendencies, of college games and of Premier Lacrosse League games.

“What makes Joey Spallina special wasn’t just what he did on the lacrosse field, it’s all the things he did mentally, from watching film, other players’ highlights, growing up on the Lizards sideline to the way he trained off the field,” East Islip coach Tommy Zummo said. “You would see Joey in the boxing gym, strength and conditioning, outside on his bounce back. He is one of those boys who is just wired differently. Most kids are concerned about their social life. Joey is more concerned about being the best version of himself.”

His father, Joe Spallina, the Stony Brook women’s lacrosse coach, was his club lacrosse coach with Team 91, which brings its own heightened expectations.

“When your dad’s your club coach, you can’t be just as good as the next guy, you have to be better,” Spallina said. “That’s always something that’s in the back of my mind.”

When Joe Spallina was coaching the MLL’s Lizards, his son had unfettered access to some of the sport’s biggest stars — Paul Rabil, Will Manny, Rob Pannell and Nicky Galasso, just to name a few. He’d study them, too. Not just what they did on the field, but how they handled themselves after the final horn.

“I always watched how they did things and watched how they handled the postgame and signing autographs and doing interviews and talking to people and how they held themselves to a high standard and how they were all very humble and polite,” Spallina said. “The first thing I saw with all these guys is that they’re great teammates and good people, and I feel that’s where it all starts.”

Spallina set several lofty goals during his high school career — to be the top-ranked recruit, to become Long Island’s all-time leading scorer, to become New York State’s all-time leading scorer.

In the Suffolk County Class C final, Spallina broke Galasso’s LI record of 500 career points. He finished his career with 507. Remarkably, he did that in four years. Had COVID-19 not wiped out his sophomore season, Spallina could have made a run at Zed Williams’ national mark of 729 points.

“Joey is the ultimate competitor, and you can see how much he has a love for the game by the way he plays,” Manhasset coach Keith Cromwell said. “While his skill level is off the charts, I was always impressed by how hard he played on game day. He has put in countless hours off the field to allow him to succeed at some of the highest levels. It is an absolute pleasure to watch him play, and I am excited to watch him as he moves forward with his lacrosse career.”

Spallina did all that scoring, all that playmaking, while always drawing the opponent’s top pole. Or despite being locked off. Or slid to early or doubled.

“Joey has seen every team’s, coach’s, defender’s best effort. Each and every time, he’s responded with an outstanding performance,” Bayport-Blue Point coach Doug Meehan said. “His lacrosse IQ, tight handle and relentless motor are unmatched. Game planning versus him was never simple. His record-breaking statistics speak for themselves.”

Arguably, Garden City defenseman Brendan Staub was the most successful this year, holding Spallina and his Mustangs scoreless through two quarters in the GEICO High School Lacrosse Showcase on ESPNU.

Spallina responded with four goals and an assist after halftime, as Mount Sinai rallied for an 8-5 win.

“His strength and body control, in addition to his skill level, make him very difficult to cover,” Garden City coach Steve Finnell said. “I thought Brendan Staub did about as good a job as you can defending him. He uses a defenseman’s technique and jams and movements against him. Very slick.”

Mount Sinai coach Harold Drumm was also impressed with what he saw from Spallina when it wasn’t gameday, whether it was recruiting one of the goalies for an additional 30 minutes of shooting or going into the coach’s office to break down what he saw on film of the next opponent.

When he’s unable to convince a goalie to stay, Spallina stays on the field alone, working on his craft.

“He’s on the field, shooting, practicing his dodges, his question marks, his left hand. Joey does not do this to impress anyone, he does this to get closer to his goal, to be the best,” Drumm said. “Many may think Joey is a natural, someone who was just born with it. This is not the case. Joey is the hardest worker I have ever coached.”







Ask Spallina about his most memorable moments of his high school career, and they both involve championships and family — the 2021 Long Island Class C title win against Manhasset, in which he scored the dramatic late winner, and this year’s county championship game against Shoreham-Wading River.

“To win the [Long Island championship] playing with Jake was something that I will never forget. And I’ll never forget winning a county championship with Brett and Jake,” Joey said of his younger  twin brothers. “It’s not very often people get to play with their siblings. I was lucky enough to play with two of them.”

He’ll get that chance again at Syracuse, but not for another year. Spallina will have to leave his comfort zone in Mount Sinai, his large immediate and extended family and go to Syracuse without them.

But he won’t be alone. On the trip up will be club and high school teammate Dylan Sageder, and Spallina will have a pair of former Team 91 Crush teammates in Nick Caccamo and Tyler Cordes waiting for him when he arrives.

“I’m going from one family and moving on to the next,” he said.

Spallina entered high school as a nationally known commodity. He leaves Mount Sinai as one of the greatest to ever play on Long Island.

While some opposing coaches might celebrate his departure, Mike Taylor from rival Shoreham-Wading River isn’t one of them.

“I personally will miss competing with Joey,” Taylor said. “Like most people that have had the pleasure to be on his team, he has also made me better. He forced me to be a better coach in preparation of defending his generational talent.”

FINAL NORTHEAST TOP 10

1. Brunswick School (Conn.), 15-1

The Bruins, who were crowned the first Prep Nationals champions, were led by senior LSM Will Donovan, a Notre Dame commit, along with defenders Charlie Johnson (Duke), who were both named All-Americans, as well as Logan Mueller (Rutgers). Don’t think for a moment Brunswick School won’t be among the nation’s elite next year with Penn commit Leo Hoffman, another All-American selection, and Tomas Delgado (Duke) leading the midfield and Princeton commit Hunter Spiess anchoring the defense. Previous: 1

2. St. Anthony’s (N.Y.), 14-2

Syracuse-bound Mike Leo was named All-American, but the Friars return arguably the region’s top rising senior in Owen Duffy, a North Carolina commit. Jack Speidell (Harvard), Jack Ponzio (Navy), Patrick Carragher (Penn State), Jackson Greene (Harvard) and Joe Calandrino (Maryland) will all return on what should be a dynamic and deep offensive juggernaut. Defensively, Jaeden Jenkins (Penn State), Kevin Kearns (Michigan) and Tommy Snyder should be among the leaders. Previous: 2

3. Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.), 18-1

The Seahawks’ state championship run was spearheaded by All-American defenders Patrick Pisano (Yale) and Jesse Phelan (Dartmouth), as well as senior goalie Spencer Will (Amherst) and FO/1M workhorse Max Hawkinson (Rutgers). Michigan commit CJ Reilly will be the leader next year on the 1M line, while Hayden Calabretta is the only returning starter on the attack line. Theo Torres, starting LSM, will have big shoes to fill defensively. Previous: 3

4. Manhasset (N.Y.), 17-4

Virginia commit Joey Terenzi capped a stellar high school career with a state championship and All-American honors. Matt Perfetto (Cornell), Dawson Rielly (Bryant) and Hunter Panzik (Air Force) will also be sorely missed. But the Indians return the top FOGO on Long Island in Duke commit Cal Girard, who was also named an All-American, Colgate commit Liam Connor on attack, Harvard-bound Jack Petersen on the 1M line and almost every significant contributor with a long pole or a goalie stick. Previous: 4

5. Staples (Conn.), 19-3

Henry Dodge’s dominance on faceoffs was a key to Staples upsetting Darien to win the CIAC Class L championship. The Vermont commit was named an All-American for a second straight year and was named Connecticut’s Player of the Year. Boston University commit Charlie Howard was named All-American again and Richmond-bound Ryan Thompson also earned All-American honors on a senior-laden squad. Among the top Wreckers returning are All-State defenseman Mike Nealon and Army commit Tyler Clark on attack. Previous: 5

6. Darien (Conn.), 19-2

For much of the season, Darien was the top team in Connecticut not named Brunswick School. The Blue Wave, who suffered a shocking loss to Staples in the state championship game, were led throughout by Matt Minicus, a two-time All-American bound for Loyola. Midfielders Christian Allegro (Navy) and Joe Cesare (Georgetown) were also named All-Americans, while Finn Pokorny (Harvard) took home Academic All-American honors. Brady Pokorny, who was named second team All-State, will have the keys to the attack in 2023. Previous: 6

7. Mt. Sinai (N.Y.), 18-1

Joey Spallina graduates as one of the most decorated players in Long Island history. The Syracuse commit, who was named All-American for a third time, which includes the first freshman All-American in LI history, also became Long Island’s all-time leading scorer. LSM Dylan Sageder, who will join Spallina at Syracuse, also earned All-American honors. The Mustangs return Jake and Brett Spallina, as well as Lucas Laforge and Cole Marsala. Previous: 7

8. Garden City (N.Y.), 19-2

All-Americans Jack Cascadden (FOGO) and Brendan Staub (D) might carpool on their way to Cornell. And while the duo were pivotal in Garden City’s state championship run, the Trojans are absolutely loaded next year. GC will be led by rising seniors Stevie Finnell (Syracuse) on attack and Cole Webber (Virginia) on defense. Jack Archer, Tristan Mullahey (Navy), Sawyer Olson, Matt Kephart and Patrick Blum and Denis Fargione will all be back as well. Previous: 8

9. Baldwinsville (N.Y.), 19-1

Before heading to Florida Southern, faceoff specialist Jake Czyz, who was named an All-American, helped guide Baldwinsville to a first-ever New York State Class A lacrosse title. The Bees should be well positioned to be among the state’s elite next year with attackman Keegan Lynch, a Fairfield commit who also was named All-American, and LSM Brayden Penafeather-Stevenson (Richmond), an Academic All-American, leading the returnees for coach Matt Wilcox. Previous: 9

10. Chaminade (N.Y.), 12-5

Charles Balsamo was one of the region’s top players and the Duke-bound attack was named an Academic All-American. Midfielders Christian Alacqua (Notre Dame) and Jack Flaherty (Navy) will also be missed, but the Flyers just reload. Richmond-bound Gavin Creo should lead the attack line, with Navy commits Aidan Lough and Ryan Landolphi on the first midfield line and sophomore Quinn Ball the man at the faceoff X, PJ Verdi (Johns Hopkins) will likely be the guy in the cage and Owen Murphy (Lehigh), George Urich (Lafayette), Ben Caccavo (Boston University) and Ben Fox are among a deep and talented group of poles returning. Previous: 10

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