It wasn’t Goalie Appreciation Day at the Pulaski Sports Complex, but there is no question how the Riverhead High School boys lacrosse team feels about its first-string goalie.
After sitting out for nearly three weeks with a slight tear in his right quadriceps, Jacob Coleman was welcomed back onto the field Wednesday.
“It’s like putting a wall back in front of the goal,” said coach Vic Guadagnino.
A three-year starter, two-year captain and returning all-county player, Coleman’s return comes just as Riverhead is racing down the final stretch of the regular season for a coveted playoff berth. The presence of the senior, who will play for Hofstra University, is sort of like an insurance policy.
Coleman said it was an awkward move in practice that caused the injury. “That day I couldn’t walk,” he said. “The next day I could actually walk, but I still felt pain.”
Watching from the sideline wasn’t easy for him. “It was killing me,” he said.
After a regimen of stretching and physical therapy, Coleman is back. He was eased back into the swing of things, playing the first half of a 16-6 blowout of William Floyd. It was a fairly quiet half for Coleman, who made one save of a shot by Justin Oppici in the game’s early moments and allowed one goal. But for him the important thing was just being back on the field again, playing behind defenders Rob Block, Austin Fitzpatrick, Brian Moulton and Paul Tocci.
“It was awesome,” Coleman said afterward. “I had a little nerves in the beginning. It felt like the first game of the season, but it was exciting to get back on the field and play hard.”
Riverhead (10-4, 8-4 Suffolk County Division I) won all four games in Coleman’s absence, with senior Mitch Jacobs filling in. But having Coleman, who said he likes getting hit by the ball, in net is a plus for the Blue Waves.
“Jake’s awesome, one of the best goalies in the county, no doubt,” Fitzpatrick said. “He stops balls like no one else.”
What makes Coleman an exceptional goalie?
“Phenomenally quick hands,” Guadagnino said. “His hands are outrageous. He’s got great hand-eye. He’s very verbal. He really is a great leader, and that makes him a great goalie.”
Thanks to a phenomenal job on faceoffs by John Ehlers, Coleman and Jacobs didn’t have too much to do. Riverhead won the game’s first 17 faceoffs, no small thanks to Ehlers (11-for-12), who also scored a goal and grabbed nine ground balls.
“John Ehlers is on fire, we win the game,” Guadagnino said. “The game was over in the first quarter because of him. It’s called make it, take it. We score a goal, John gets us the ball back.”
Dan Mastropaolo went 9-for-10 on faceoffs as Riverhead went 21-for-25 as a team.
That set up an offense that saw Connor Grauer score four of Riverhead’s first seven goals before tacking on his fifth in the second quarter. Matt Greaves (three goals, one assist), Chris Flood (two goals, one assist), Kamryn Gill (one goal, two assists) and Connor Kalmus (four assists) also fed Riverhead’s attack, which outshot William Floyd, 46-16.
William Floyd (4-9, 3-8) received two goals apiece from Oppici and Jared Newberg.
In victory, there was a loss for Riverhead, however. Dan Harmon, a second-line middie, took a hard landing on the field turf in the second quarter and separated a shoulder, according to Guadagnino. The senior was taken away in an ambulance.
The top 11 Division I teams will qualify for the playoffs. Riverhead began the day in eighth place, with two games left: at Longwood on Tuesday and at home to Huntington on May 11.
Guadagnino said, “We’re currently in, so we just got to hold … serve.”
Having Coleman back in goal is a big help.
Photo caption: Riverhead goalie Jacob Coleman, who had missed four games with a slight tear in his right quadriceps, played his first game since the injury. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)