It was both a gray day and a Gray day.
First, the weather report. The combination of cold, rain and wind made conditions miserable for the Islip and Shoreham-Wading River high school boys lacrosse teams on Friday.
“It was pretty terrible,” Shoreham’s Chris Gray said. “We had a good time, though. You got to make the most of it. We got some energy off of it. Most people, obviously, prefer a sunny day. I don’t mind it.”
Shoreham found itself in a curious position, something Mike Taylor doesn’t recall experiencing in his three years as the team’s coach. Twice in the first half on Friday, the Wildcats trailed by two goals, and they weren’t quite looking like their usual selves.
Taylor said, “There was a point where I thought, ‘This is going really bad for us.’ ”
And then Gray went about making things right for his side. The senior attack lived up to his All-American status, firing in seven goals from 11 shots after assisting on a goal by Sean Halpin. It propelled Shoreham, the top-seeded team in Suffolk County Division II, to a 13-8 home-opening win on Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field’s wet turf.
“That’s what an All-American does,” Taylor said. “When the game’s on the line, he says, ‘Get on my back, here we go.’ ”
After goals by Jeff Atlas and Jack Lizzul spotted Islip leads of 3-1 and 4-2, a nifty backhander by Gray off a spin move and a man-up goal whipped in by Xavier Arline had the teams level at 4-4 by halftime.
“I think we played a very undisciplined first half,” said Taylor, whose team was coming off a 14-2 defeat of Harborfields on Wednesday.
Gray snapped the tie with his goal 43 seconds into the third quarter, and Shoreham (2-0, 2-0) led the rest of the way.
“I think he completely turned the game around,” Taylor said, adding, “They couldn’t stop him.”
Arline, a freshman attack who had four goals and one assist, said Gray is “unselfish and he knows when to take matters into his own hands at the same time.”
Joe Juengerkes ripped in a shot for his fifth goal of the game, pulling Islip (2-2, 1-1) to within 10-8 with 7:37 left to play. But Shoreham finished strong, with a pair of Gray goals sandwiched around one by Joe Miller. Miller’s goal was as individual as it gets. After taking the faceoff, he picked up the ground ball (one of his seven for the game) before charging forward and scoring.
“We fight,” Arline said. “We never give up on each other.”
Lizzul finished with two goals for Islip while Mike Bienkowski added three assists and Nick Barry won 14 of 25 faceoffs.
Both goalies, Islip’s Devin Degennaro and Shoreham’s Jake Wilson, made eight saves each.
The Boston University-bound Gray, who has 10 goals and two assists from the first two games, is hardly a surprise. Last season he led the county with 79 goals and 101 points, according to Newsday. He scored a career-high eight goals against Syosset last year.
Gray said he felt no urgency Friday, even when Shoreham was down. “We’re definitely a hard-fighting team,” he said. “We work hard, but there’s definitely a lot of stuff we need to work on still. We’re not close to where we want to be right now. We played, in my opinion, pretty sloppy today, but there’s no excuse. We got to get back to practice tomorrow and work hard.”
Taylor echoed that thought. When asked if he has learned anything about his team after two games, the coach answered: “Yeah. We need to get better.”
Photo caption: All-American senior attack Chris Gray brought Shoreham-Wading River seven goals and one assist in its home-opening win over Islip. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)