BLUE WAVES 15, EAGLES 8
When Vic Guadagnino became the varsity lacrosse coach at Riverhead four years ago, he took over a relatively unknown program compared to the many powerhouses spread throughout Suffolk County. Slowly, he began to put his mark on the program, building from the bottom up.
That first season, a quartet of promising freshmen joined him on the varsity. As the years went by, and the win totals started to increase, the presence of those four players began to leave an indelible mark.
On Tuesday afternoon, an era came full circle. Playing in their final home game, the group of Ryan Hubbard, Dan Czelatka, Mike Van Bommel and Jaron Greenidge led the Blue Waves to a 15-8 victory over West Babylon.
“I’m not ever sure what Riverhead lacrosse is going to be without these guys,” Guadagnino said. “I’ve never had them not around.”
In a season that fell short of expectations, the Blue Waves could rejoice one last time on their home field. A blistering second half allowed the Blue Waves to savor some memorable moments, from Van Bommel’s first goal to a nifty behind-the-back goal from Hubbard, to the giant cut-out heads of each of the eight seniors that were tied the fence at the end of the field.
“When we were lining up, it felt like we won the championship,” Van Bommel said. “I don’t think any of us have any regrets on our career.”
Hubbard matched his career high with a seven-goal performance.
“We’ve been working together for four years,” he said. “Coach always talked about how you remember your last game more than anything else. We wanted to have a good memory to leave Riverhead with.”
Hubbard’s goal with two seconds left in the second quarter broke a 5-5 tie and started the Blue Waves on a 9-2 run that extended into the fourth quarter. Riverhead struck for six goals in the third quarter to blow the game open.
Early in the third quarter, Hubbard caught a feed from Andre Juarez and whipped a behind-the-back shot that seemed to catch the entire West Babylon team by surprise. The goal put Riverhead ahead 9-5.
It wasn’t his first behind-the-back goal, but as Van Bommel noted: “This was his best.”
Van Bommel, a long-pole defenseman, had his highlight play later in the quarter. After securing a ground ball after a West Babylon turnover, Van Bommel raced across the midfield line and found plenty of daylight ahead of him. He charged toward the goal, unleashed a left-handed shot and saw the ball skip past West Babylon’s goalkeeper.
“It was awesome,” Van Bommel said.
As Van Bommel carried the ball down the field, his teammates said they knew he was going to be looking for a shot.
“We all knew he was shooting,” said Greenidge, a fellow defenseman.
Riverhead’s defense limited West Babylon to just three second-half goals. And one of those came in the final minutes.
“We just had to get our heads right and play together as a team,” Greenidge said. “Play hard and leave it all out on the field.”
After making the playoffs for the first time last year, the Blue Waves will be left on the outside this season. The top 12 teams in Division I qualify for the Class A playoffs and the Blue Waves will finish just shy of that group when the final power rankings are tallied. A product of last season’s success was a more challenging schedule this year.
Looking back, three one-goal losses to teams ahead of them in the standings will ultimately be what keeps the Blue Waves out. A win in any one of those games likely would have been enough for Riverhead to make the leap.
“After those tough one-goal losses, we just wanted to hit playoffs,” said Czelatka, who scored three goals Tuesday. “If we won them it’d be a different story.”
Guadagnino said there was no quit in the team after those losses, but he could still see how it deflated the players.
“It definitely wore us down a little,” he said. “One is tough. Two is terrible. Three is like, oh my God.”
After a one-goal loss to Half Hollow Hills West April 22, the Blue Waves had three more games against top-tier teams. But they fell by wide margins against Walt Whitman, Ward Melville and Sachem North.
“A couple things didn’t go our way with those one-goal games to get us in the playoffs, but you come in day in and day out and work hard and we just wanted to leave in on the field and end on a good note,” Van Bommel said.