Lacrosse is a fast game. The players move fast, the ball moves fast and, without a moment’s notice, momentum can change just like that.
Through the first quarter of play in Riverhead’s season opener on Tuesday, the Blue Waves looked good, and had a 4-1 lead over Eastport/South Manor to show for it.
“The first quarter we were on fire,” said Riverhead goalie Jacob Coleman.
Then Mr. Momentum interceded.
Both teams took on vastly different appearances as Eastport fired in all six goals of the second quarter as part of a game-changing 7-0 blitz that sent Riverhead down to a 15-7 non-league defeat in Manorville.
“It’s just crazy how … momentum changes really fast,” said John Ehlers, the junior midfielder who scored twice, won 15 of 22 faceoffs and came away with 10 ground balls for Riverhead.
As Riverhead coach Vic Guadagnino saw it, his team’s youthful inexperience showed. The Blue Waves started two sophomore attackmen in Connor Grauer and Dalton Lucas, for example.
“We had a great start,” Guadagnino said. “That’s what we wanted to do, and then just some of our Achilles’ heels came out during the game. We have a lot of youth in a lot of positions and we got exposed quite early. That lack of game experience showed.”
Grauer scored on his first two shots to help Riverhead to that 4-1 lead. Then Eastport (1-0) found its way. Kevin Dowsett and Chris Clemente (three goals, two assists) each scored two goals during the 7-0 charge. Riverhead was reeling and on its heels.
“We just stopped after one quarter,” said Coleman.
Then Riverhead saw a ray of hope when Ehlers scored while being knocked down face first and Austin Fitzpatrick ripped in his second goal of the game from long range, cutting Eastport’s lead to 8-6 with 3 minutes 3 seconds left in the third quarter.
“Momentum changes constantly,” Guadagnino said. “We had a shot there in the third quarter. We cut it back down to two. You know, we finish one more, cut it to one, the momentum could totally swing the other way.”
Instead the teams exchanged a goal each before Eastport finished strong, netting the final six goals of the game.
“We broke down on defense,” said Coleman.
Guadagnino said: “When you’re counting on sophomores to do a lot of stuff, you’re going to have to live with some of this, a lot of growing pains. I got a lot of growing pains today.”
Zach Clemente, Chris’ brother, pumped in four goals to go with an assist. Hunter Mason and Branden Stiles each had two goals and one assist for the Sharks. Mason also scooped up eight ground balls.
Both starting goalies played well. Eastport’s Jake Zaino made 14 saves while Coleman was credited with 16 saves, including some impressive stops while he was under heavy fire.
“He does some unbelievable things,” Guadagnino said. “He’s unreal. If we just get some help in front of him, it will be nice.”
Remarking on the drastic difference in how his team played from the first quarter to the second, Guadagnino said: “I say we’re the tale of two teams. We’re like Jekyll and Hyde. I just wish whichever one is better, Jekyll or Hyde, comes out all four quarters the next time.”
Photo caption: Riverhead midfielder John Ehlers scoring from close range on Eastport/South Manor goalie Jake Zaino. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)