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Boys Lacrosse: Riverhead finds itself in lofty company

The Riverhead High School boys lacrosse team wears blue jerseys on the road, but there’s more blue to the Blue Waves than that.

There’s also blue in their collars.

“Blue-collar kids, you know, really wanting and going after it and getting their nose dirty,” senior midfielder John Ehlers said. “That’s what Riverhead is all about. That’s who we are.”

And if the Suffolk County Division I standings are to be believed, Riverhead isn’t far removed from the upper echelon of teams in the division. Prior to its 17-4 ransacking of Copiague on Tuesday at Tanner Park’s Jerry Finnegan Field, Riverhead stood in seventh place among the division’s 22 teams. Not bad for a team with a preseason seeding of 14th.

The top 11 teams in the division will qualify for the playoffs, and Riverhead (7-4, 5-4) has its sights set on reaching the postseason for the second time in three years.

“We’re in a great position right now,” coach Vic Guadagnino said. “We got through the tough stretch already. Now things will be, not easy, but a little less difficult for us.”

Wins over Bay Shore and Sachem North gave Riverhead a significant shot in the arm. Another big factor has been Ehlers’ work on faceoffs.

“John Ehlers on faceoffs is absolutely dominant,” Guadagnino said. “So, we have a lot of possessions and we’ve been keeping the ball on offense a lot for the season. We’ve dominated possession in every game we’ve played — even in the losses.”

Ehlers, who has committed to play for Stony Brook University, said: “I’m doing alright, competing with some of the best kids in the country. As long as I can get them the ball, I know that Connor [Grauer] will score, I know that six other guys on offense will put the ball in the back of the net.”

Putting the ball in the net wasn’t a problem for Riverhead on Tuesday. The one-sided game played in the rain saw 12 Blue Waves score at least one goal against Copiague (0-9, 0-8).

“We’re just playing our game,” Ehlers said. “We were the tale of two teams, and we used to be like that, but we’ve really picked it up this year.”

Ehlers opened the scoring just seconds after winning the game-opening faceoff and had his second goal by the time the contest was 17 seconds old. Grauer had three goals and one assist in the opening 3:57.

Riverhead had rifled in 10 goals before Sean Walsh scored the first of his two goals for Copiague with 1:09 left in the first quarter.

Ehlers had a break on faceoffs, winning the only two he was asked to handle. Dan Mastropaolo went 8-for-12 on faceoffs for Riverhead, which also received two goals apiece from Dalton Lucas and Dan Concannon, and three assists (all on successive first-quarter goals) from Kamryn Gill. Mastropaolo, Connor Kalmus and Jacob Zuhoski chipped in a goal and an assist each.

Mitch Jacobs manned the Riverhead goal in place of regular starter Jacob Coleman, who has a quadricep tear, said Guadagnino.

“We want to get to the playoffs,” Grauer said. “Not only that, we really want to go far into the playoffs. As a program, we got to get this home playoff game, we got to go far and maybe win a championship. That’s the ultimate goal. We’re in a better position than we’ve ever been.”

As Guadagnino sees it, as long as Ehlers keeps winning faceoffs, Riverhead should be in good shape.

“As long as we have the ball, they can’t score,” he said. “As long as we keep possession, all is good.”

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