COLTS 12, BLUE WAVES 11
The 2014 Riverhead boys lacrosse team may be the best team in the program’s history. By the season’s end, that may not be so easily quantified.
The Blue Waves may not win as many games as last year. And their postseason hopes are currently on thin ice.
Such is the effect of last year’s success — a higher seeding in the preseason resulting in a markedly more difficult schedule that pits the Blue Waves against the top teams in Division I.
“This is way tougher,” said Riverhead coach Vic Guadagnino. “Realistically, we’re only two seeds higher up, but it makes a big difference.”
Against Half Hollow Hills West Tuesday afternoon, the Blue Waves had an opportunity to inject some life back into their postseason dreams. But the game followed an all-too-familiar script that’s haunted the Blue Waves this season.
One goal shy.
In a back-and-forth game where the teams were never separated by more than two goals, the Blue Waves fell 12-11 at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field. It was the third one-goal loss for Riverhead in Division I and fourth overall this season.
“You can’t lose every game by a goal against these top teams,” Guadagnino said. “We’re just not getting it done.”
The loss dropped Riverhead to 3-5 in Division I and 4-6 overall. Hills West (7-2, 6-2 D-I) came into the game third in the D-I power rankings behind only Smithtown East and Smithtown West. A win would have provided a plentiful boost in power points for the Blue Waves, who came into the day 12th in the standings. Thirteen teams make the playoffs in Class A, leaving the Blue Waves little room for error down the stretch.
The Blue Waves had a chance to tie the game in the final minute after Ryan Gevinski came up with a hard fought ground ball. The Blue Waves called a timeout with :54.8 left to set up a play for the equalizer.
On the ensuing possession, the Blue Waves got a shot off that missed, and the Colts gained possession as the ball went out of bounds.
“I had all my shooters out there,” Guadagnino said. “I thought we got the shot we wanted. We go over backing up the cage every day and we didn’t back it up.”
The Colts quickly cleared and ran out the final seconds to lock up the victory.
The teams were tied at 10 going into the fourth quarter. Hills West regained the lead with 7:49 left when Ryan Ozsvath converted a feed from Cam Mule on a man advantage. The Blue Waves had been whistled for too many men on the field 15 seconds earlier.
The Blue Waves had chances to tie the game, but Hills West goalkeeper Erik Mikelinich came up with a big fourth quarter. The Colts’ defense forced Riverhead into a perimeter offense and the Mikelinich was there to pick off any shots from the outside.
In the final minutes, with the Blue Waves trailing by a goal, John Roca came out of the goal to serve as an extra defender. The Blue Waves hoped to cause a turnover, but instead Justin Cerniello scored in front on an empty cage off an assist from Cody Clarson.
“You got to roll the dice,” Guadagnino said. “We have to be aggressive and try to get it.”
Giving up the goal allowed the Blue Waves a chance to get the ball back. And they capitalized when Gevinski scored his third goal of the game, catching a feed in front and spinning for the shot from about seven yards out. Dan Czelatka (2 goals, 2 assists) assisted. The Blue Waves got possession again on the face-off, but couldn’t convert.
After an offensive flurry in the first quarter that saw the teams combine for nine goals, the defenses for both teams stepped up as the game went on. Riverhead scored just three goals in the second half.
As the defense improved for Riverhead, the offense faltered.
“We had a very poor defensive first half,” Guadagnino said. “Then we just played it better.”
The Blue Waves had a golden chance to gain some momentum to start the fourth quarter. Riverhead’s Mark Andrejack, one of the smaller players on the team, scooped a ground ball late in the third and took a vicious hit from Riley Forte that drew a flag. Andrejack spun off the hit and kept up field before getting whacked again. The Blue Waves came rushing to his defense, which sparked some pushing and shoving among the players right in front of the scorer’s table. When the dust settled, the referees huddled for several minutes to sort out the penalties.
Forte got assessed a two-minute penalty for a hit to the head and a one-minute penalty for a cross-check. But the Blue Waves’ Mike Van Bommel also got a two-minute unsportsmanlike penalty and Ben Weir was assessed a one-minute unsportsmanlike penalty after some confusion by the referees over which player should get the penalty. The referee initially said nine, but the Blue Waves didn’t have a player wearing nine.
“It’s tough to tell a kid who’s our emotional leader not to be emotional,” Guadagnino said. “He saw his teammate getting beat on pretty badly and he reacted emotionally.”
In the end, Hills West went on a man-up for a minute, followed by one minute of even strength and then Riverhead had a man-up for one minute. No goals were scored.
Without the after-the-play skirmish, Riverhead would have had a three-minute man advantage.
Ryan Hubbard led the Blue Waves with four goals and two assists. All of his points came in the first half.