Boys Soccer: Riverhead drops season opener in OT, 2-1

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead junior Nelson Perez knocks in a rebound for a goal to tie the game at 1 Friday against East Islip.

There was no doubt for Riverhead coach Lamine Traore that through the disappointment and frustration of a season-opening loss Friday against East Islip, there was a silver lining.

The Blue Waves are on the right path.

But in soccer, playing well, controlling possession and generating scoring chances all boils down to one thing: getting the ball in the net.

The Blue Waves had their chances against the Redmen, rallying from an early one-goal deficit, only to fall in overtime, 2-1, in their season opener at home.

“Let’s finish our chances and we win,” Riverhead’s second-year coach told his team afterward.

In an exciting opener, the game came down to what the Blue Waves viewed as two missed calls. In the opening moments of the first overtime period, a Riverhead player got knocked to the ground inside the box, which could have resulted in a penalty kick. But the referees let the contact go with no call.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead sophomore Anthony Antunes heads a ball in Friday’s loss against East Islip.

Shortly after, the Redmen got out in transition, setting the stage for senior Brady Benitez to get behind the defense and score the game-winning goal.

The Blue Waves felt Benitez was offside on the play. The Riverhead players momentarily gave up on the play, expecting a whistle, only to never hear it.

It was a lesson learned — never assume a whistle is coming.

“It’s hard to see the kids fighting from the beginning to the end and it ended up like this,” Traore said.

The Redmen scored the game’s opening goal in the first when senior Dan Munar headed the ball in after an initial East Islip shot was saved by Riverhead sophomore Ryan DiResta.

Riverhead netted the equalizer midway through the second half on a goal by junior Nelson Perez. The ball was chipped ahead toward the goal and the Blue Waves got off one shot that was saved by East Islip goalkeeper Frank Noviello. But the Waves kept the pressure on in front of the goal and the ball bounced back on a rebound toward Perez who knocked it in a few feet in front of the goal.

“We’re really counting on [Perez],” Traore said.

Riverhead forward Anthony Antunes had a couple good scoring chances late in the second half. He ripped one hard shot just wide of the net. Shortly after he got a crossing pass from Perez and hit a shot just wide left.

Earlier in the half senior Andrew Ruggerio had a free kick from in front of the box that skimmed just over the crossbar.

“We had more chances than they had,” Traore said. “Soccer’s all about getting the ball in the net.”

Noviello made two quick superb saves back-to-back on shots by Perez. After making an initial save, the ball came back out to Perez, who looked like he had an open net. But Noviello made a miraculous jump to get back in position and knock down the next shot to keep the game tied at 1.

DiResta finished with eight saves for Riverhead.

Traore said he’s impressed with how much DiResta communicates with the players in front of him.

“You can hear him from over here,” he said. “He does the most talking. That’s what I like about him.”

East Islip finished the game with nine corner kicks. Riverhead had three corners.

The Blue Waves return to action Thursday at Centereach.

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