ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | After scoring Riverhead’s fourth goal against Centereach, Jayson Set, left, is congratulated by Karol Birycki.
BLUE WAVES 4, COUGARS 0
As the Riverhead boys soccer team was putting the finishing touches to an impressive 4-0 victory over visiting Centereach on Monday, the sun set majestically in the west.
Blue Waves coach Lamine Traore fears the same could be said about his improved team as the regular season nears an end.
During the past several weeks, Riverhead has been among the hottest teams, going 5-1-1 in its last seven games. Unfortunately, that is not enough to boost the Blue Waves into the Suffolk County Class AA Tournament because teams need to finish .500 or higher in their league to qualify for the postseason.
The Blue Waves improved to 5-7-1 in League III and overall with the regular-season finale looming at West Islip on Wednesday.
“We deserve to make the playoffs,” said junior midfielder/forward Anthony Antunes, whose 10th-minute goal sparked the Blue Waves. “I was just told if we win on Wednesday, there might be a chance to go to the playoffs.”
Maybe, maybe not.
If the Blue Waves defeat West Islip and finish at 6-7-1, they could petition county soccer officials to enter the tournament based on their record and recent performances.
Traore admitted that he hadn’t thought of that possibility, but certainly wouldn’t dismiss it.
“If it’s possible, why not?” he said. “We have a shot. These are the teams. We can compete against them. If they need another team, I think we should be out there.”
Traore had no doubts about the great strides his team has made.
“Our program is different from other programs,” he said. “They are able to keep their players together almost the year round. We get the chance to get these kids about two months. To build a team, it takes more than two months. Since we have come here, the end of the season has been better for us. At the beginning, the chemistry is not there, the fitness is not there. As we go, the chemistry starts coming, the fitness gets along and we start battling against these teams.”
The Blue Waves put everything together Monday on both ends of the field against Centereach (2-13, 2-11). Kevin Elejalde, Jayson Set and Victor Guazhambo also scored and a solid defense helped goalkeeper Ryan DiResta (7 saves) recorded a clean sheet.
Traore said it was one of the best performances of the season, that a 1-1 tie with Smithtown West was No. 1. Smithtown West had several players on Smithtown Arsenal, which captured the under-16 boys national youth title this summer.
Afterwards Traore congratulated his players on another home victory and explained how they can translate that success to the road.
“The passion that we have here on our field, let’s see if we can have it on Wednesday when we are away,” he told his team. “You can make the away field your home field playing. Bring the same intensity, you will see how easy the game can be for you. Good job.”
The same could be said about how Riverhead scored its first goal. The Blue Waves cleared a corner kick. The ball came to Antunes and he bolted down the left side, from box to box before unleashing a 20-yard shot past goalkeeper Rob Retnauer to the lower right corner.
“All I saw was the goal,” Antunes said. “I had a couple of players in front of me. As soon as I passed the first one, I knew. All I knew I had an eye for goal. I was going straight for goal, no matter who was in my way.”
The goal lifted the Blues Waves’ spirits.
“It motivated us,” Elejalde said. “That’s why we won, 4-0. We played our game.”
It certainly motivated Elejalde, who headed home an 18-yard shot for a 2-0 lead with 21:34 remaining in the half.
With 12:57 left in the half, Guazhambo converted a rebound to raise the margin to 3-0 before Set closed out the scoring with 30:24 remaining in the game.
“We communicated well,” Elejalde said. “We made a lot of passes. We played beautiful. We should have played like this throughout the whole season. This was our best game, definitely.”
The Blue Waves hope to have a few more opportunities to duplicate that in the coming weeks.