HUNTINGTON STATION — Walt Whitman is the one team to have beaten Ward Melville, Suffolk County’s gold standard for boys lacrosse, this season. And that came on the heels of Coach Robert Howell losing two all-county players and another three all-league players to graduation last spring.
“It’s been kind of a roller coaster so far,” Howell said.
The Wildcats improved to 8-4 overall and 6-4 in Suffolk County Division I with a 15-3 defeat of Riverhead at Walt Whitman High School last Thursday afternoon.
Howell noted his team’s youth, saying, “We’re trying to put the puzzle pieces in place.”
Even in an up-and-down season, the Wildcats have reloaded. And when they play up to their full capabilities, other teams should watch out.
With his team facing players like Myles Jones and Kevin Teresky, Riverhead Coach Tony Lawrence was not expecting a victory. He was hoping the Blue Waves (2-8, 1-7) could show their mettle despite a season that has unfolded far differently than Lawrence had expected.
They did. After losing the opening face-off, Riverhead forced the game’s first turnover 25 seconds into the first quarter. On the Blue Waves’ opening offensive possession, Nick Panagakos went straight for the goal from 40 yards out. Having drawn the defense toward him, Panagakos flipped the ball to Robert Curaba for the goal and a 1-0 Riverhead lead.
The lead held up for nearly six minutes as Riverhead’s defense forced Jones into some tough shots. The one good look Jones did get, goalie Kyle Hubbard turned away. Hubbard and backup goalie Cody Haas faced 35 shots and recorded 15 saves between them.
But having seen that he could draw Riverhead’s entire defense toward him with any move, Jones gave the ball up to Gregory Harris with 4:20 left in the first quarter. Harris beat Hubbard to tie the score at 1. Harris also recorded two assists. The score stayed 1-1 for the rest of the quarter.
“I’m very proud,” Lawrence said. “It’s much better than the past. We held the ball on offense. It’s something we’ve always done, just throw the ball away. Today we kept possession of it. We were smart. There wasn’t a bad pass.”
There just was not nearly enough offense from the Blue Waves to counter what the Wildcats had in store for them in the second and third quarters. It took just 11 seconds for Jones to scoop up the second quarter’s first face-off and get it to Matt Finn for one of his four goals on the day. Having seen Jones flex his passing ability, the Blue Waves backed off him and spread out their defense. That did not work, either. With 10:46 left in the quarter, Jones picked up a loose ball near midfield. Riverhead defenseman Rob Harris chased him, but as he did so, caught himself stepping over the midfield line. It would have been a penalty had the referees seen the infraction, but they did not. Jones spent several seconds pleading for a call, to no avail. Seeing that this would be in vain, Jones shrugged his shoulders and headed straight for the goal. He seemed to leave a wake in his path as nobody got in his way, including Hubbard. Jones scored to put the Wildcats ahead by 3-1.
Jones finished with one goal and five assists. Teresky added three goals and two assists.
Charles Bartlett scored with 24 seconds left in the third quarter and Kevin Tuthill scored the Blue Waves’ final goal halfway through the fourth.
“Tony’s having a rough year over there,” Howell said.
But Lawrence sees some silver linings ahead in Riverhead’s final games of the season. “It’s the individual mistake that’s costing us,” he said. “If you look at yourself in the mirror and say: ‘What am I doing wrong? What can I do to make myself better?’ As long as we focus on that, we’ll be better.”