Meet SeanMichael Pagano and the Briarcliffe Bulldogs


Recently, LAS received an anonymous email about PCLL D2 team, Briarcliffe College, upon reading it, we knew we had to talk with Head Coach SeanMichael Pagano. See for yourself below…

“Watch out for Briarcliffe College, a small college on Long Island. They are coached by a former Marine and are a well oiled unit, ready to do battle. Ask Utah Valley University, who were lucky to get by them in the first round of the tournament. They have unfinished business, so MCLA Div 2 watch out. These guys are for real and have only one thing on their mind, REVENGE.”

MCLA Fan: So Coach, what do you think of the email? Last season the team lost a close 10-9 game to eventual finalist Utah Valley University, how much does this factor into getting back to Nationals this year?

Coach Pagano: Well, getting to the Nationals is our goal every year. Does it take on new meaning because we lost by a goal to a team that finished #2 in the country? Sure. We prepare to take on the best every year. It was a close game and one of the best I have ever coached in.

As far as luck is concerned I don’t put a lot of stock in luck on the field. Utah Valley was well prepared, well coached and well conditioned. Do I think we could have won? I do. That’s not what happened, so we will move on and prepare for this season. Some of my players hope we see them again. Some of my players think of no other team when they are conditioning because of what was written.  I wouldn’t mind a rematch but we want to go to Nationals whether we face Utah Valley or not. Revenge is not a motivation for us, getting respect is.

Earlier this summer we interviewed you and depth was a big goal for the off-season. Looking at your roster, it appears you only lost one player (Midfielder Joe Sperduto) and averaged 12 points a game (including scrimmages). How is the roster depth looking these days?

We didn’t lose Sperduto; he just won’t be playing, lol. He is returning as a member of the coaching staff. Unfortunately, we lost more than that. Joe Giannina and Frank Danoy have left to pursue their Law Enforcement careers. We lost Aldaberto Montero our fourth close defensemen, Justin Gill our LSM, as well as Travis Meekins one of our midfielders. Relatively speaking we have gained depth, though.  We had Jeff Orban (PCLL Rookie of the Year 2009 – PCLL 1st Team All-Conference – Midfield) playing close defense last year, he has moved back to his original spot at midfield.

Our LSM play was decent last year; we have added Eric Vitale and Sharif Hasan who will be strong at that position. We gained some outstanding close defensemen in Sean Stanton, Dominic Rullo, and Christopher Friedman. If all keep working and improving, they should all see playing time. With the addition of Matt Gierl and George Germanakos who are both excellent Goalies, we can go with who is hot in between the pipes the week of competition. Greg Difalco has gone from a great D-middie to an offensive threat in three short years.

My first season we had 16 players on the roster and only 14 were true lacrosse players. Last season we had 19 on the roster and 17 were true lacrosse player. This year we have 22 lacrosse players. We have added depth and talent. I just last night was on the phone with Coach Kaley (retired NYIT Head Coach) about this. He shared with me some tricks from when he only had 14 players at East Meadow High School and won a championship. It was a great philosophy type conversation that made me look at a couple of things. Then he shared some insight from when he was at NYIT and I have already started prepping some of his teaching points into my practice plans. He’s a great coach and always takes the time to chat and answer questions that I might have. The guidance that I have gotten from coaches like Coach Dave Carty (Pace University), Coach Jack Kaley and Coach Tim Tuttle (Farmingdale State) has been invaluable in helping me prepare myself, my staff and my team to play at a high level.

Another thing we discussed was trouble recruiting with being in the Northeast, how did your recruiting class turn out to be this year?

Recruiting brought in great talent and players that want to be a part of what we are building. I see all of them making an impact in one way or another. Our recruiting is picking up. We already have six committed recruits for next season. Ryan Soucy out of New field High School will be an immediate impact at attack or midfield in 2012. Solid midfielders Pete Mafonga (Sayville High School), Donald Whitehurst (William Floyd High School), Nick Feraca (William Floyd High School), Randy Vasquez (Island Trees High School) and defensemen Jack Brown (Seaford High School) have all committed to play for us.

We are excited to have them aboard. We know that since we already have these early signings we should have a very big recruiting class for next year. We are talking to some quality Long Island talent that we are hoping will choose us.

You guys don’t seem to pass up any opportunity for a game, last year playing nine scrimmages against teams like the Army JV, Army Prep, D3 squads Farmingdale and Plattsburgh, and D2 squads American International and Chestnut Hill. How much did this help your team during the big games?

All the teams were a great chance for us to play games where we knew that we could not let up.  This gave the players an opportunity to play under stress and pressure before it was for our conference championship or the Nationals. Once the players go into contests like that and see that they can compete and win, the ability for another team to intimidate us goes out the window. As a matter of fact this team plays better when the opponent tries to intimidate them. We’re from Long Island, that’s our style of play. We will not be intimidated.

Another big step towards national recognition is the OOC games, this year your schedule features a scrimmage with Army JV again, but also OOC games against D2 powerhouses Grove City and Davenport. How do you think those will factor into preparing your team for the PCLL D2?

We played Grove City two seasons ago as a late addition to their schedule and won by a goal. We think that Grove City is a classy well coached team. Coach Sandvig has that team prepared every season and we are excited about having them on our schedule again. They had invited us last season but we just couldn’t swing the travel. This year the players are looking forward to the Pittsburgh trip so much that it’s getting the staff excited about it also. We all know Davenport is a great team, so now we will see how we compare to teams like these.

Army JV will always be a staple of our schedule. I have coached at Army camp and love to go up there and show my players the campus and the tradition of it. Last year’s win came the day after we played URI (a game we needed to get in to qualify for Nationals) and then we drove to West Point and took on Army JV and pulled out a win. I believe with a good showing in Pittsburgh against Grove City and Davenport will let everyone know we deserve to be in the top ten in the country and will prepare us for our conference post season.

Gear always seems to be a big deal these days, what sorts of gear is Briarcliffe sporting this year? Anything flashy or unique to your school? (Got any photos to share?)

We went with Harrow this year for almost all of our gear. We took the black and white Torrent gloves with the BC patch on them. Black and white shooting shirts with the extra- large BC logo. Black warm ups from Harrow as well. We replaced our uniform to meet the new rule requirements. We went with pretty much the same design as the old ones. We went with New Balance. The only change (besides number size of course) is that instead of the Briarcliffe across the front we just put the BC logo. We are looking at putting decals on the helmets this year but we will wait to unveil those if we do.

We try to stay simple. We think our uniforms are sharp without a lot of flash to them. Uniforms will be here any day, but here is what we have……

Harrow Gloves
Sharp looking warm-ups
Shooter shirt
The works

Let’s talk weather, the Northeast has gotten barraged by snow storms this year, how has that affected your preseason preparation?

I’m sorry, can you repeat the question?  I had to turn off my snow blower after blowing the foot of snow off my driveway from last night’s storm, lol!  It actually has not affected us as much this year as it has in the past. We found a full field indoor facility that we practice at six days a week.

The past two seasons we had the guys shoveling the turf until we could play on it. The players hated it and the staff would get frustrated about the lost practice time. We would lose on average two weeks of preseason practice due to snow. This season so far I cancelled practice today due to the roads. So, we are handling it and will actually be better prepared then we have been. I still keep the heat off so we are used to the cold air though. Players can’t be spoiled now can they?

Just a little snow
...and a little more

If you could describe this year’s team in 1 word, what would it be and why?

Family. I know it’s probably not the type of answer you are looking for but it describes us better than any other word. I could say determined. I could say hungry. I know players would say disrespected. I think that they are single minded in their determination. The team as a whole is hungry this is true but it’s more than that. Respect will be there or it won’t, depending on who is looking at us. We have respect for so many and I know that teams have respect for us.

The bottom line is these players take care of each other. I put them through a lot. I’m harder on them then any game will ever be. They take pride in the fact that my staff does not except anything less than all they have. We are on them every day, every practice. This makes them closer. It makes all of us closer. We are a family. We enjoy every minute of it.

Thank you so much for taking the time out to talk with us Coach, can’t wait to follow Briarcliffe this season.

Check out Briarcliffe College’s ‘Growing the Program’ interview here and their full 2011 schedule.

And some highlight videos here: