Talk about being rewarded for a good season.
After a 10-win season last year for Riverhead, the Blue Waves received a 14 seed in Division I this year, which means some heavy hitters showing up on the schedule.
The league opener this year? Ward Melville.
“The most famous program in the history of lacrosse,” said Riverhead coach Victor Guadagnino. “That’s a way to start.”
The Blue Waves will relish the chance to play against some of the elite of the county. While the Blue Waves may not be in that group yet, they return all but one starter from last year and have their sights set on reaching the playoffs.
Even with a winning record last year, the Blue Waves missed out on the playoffs based on the power rankings.
“We have some high expectations,” Guadagnino said. “We started a little slow. The weather hasn’t helped. But we’re getting there. We’d like to be in the playoffs for the first time in our school history.”
Guadagnino is in his third year as the head coach of Riverhead. It’s been a building process and this he hopes his team is ready to take the next step.
The biggest key will be adjusting to the speed of the game.
“The guys in the top 10 play at a much faster pace than the guys on the bottom 14,” Guadagnino said. “So we have to improve our skill level and definitely play at that faster pace of those top 10 teams.”
The Blue Waves put in the work in the offseason, which included a travel program in the summer, the first of its kind in Riverhead, Guadagnino said. Aside from football season in the fall, the Blue Waves have been going almost year-round.
“Now we got to get over that wall and get into the tournament and try to have some success in there,” he said.
The Blue Waves will rely on senior Ryan Bitzer, who signed to play at Stony Brook, and junior Ryan Hubbard, an all-division player last year on both ends of the field.
Daniel Czelatka and Paul Harron can both provide offense.
All four players were over 20 goals last year.
“They’re the bulk of our offense,” Guadagnino said.
Keith Jefferson returns as a starter as well. A newcomer to the starting lineup is freshman Austin Fitzpatrick.
In goal the Blue Waves return Alex Panagakos, who’s been a two-year starter.
On defense Jaron Greenidge, Jack Moran, Mike Van Bommel and Ryan Harkin all return. Freshman Blake Carrara will play long pole middie.
The Blue Waves open the season Friday with a non-league game at Deer Park.