The Riverhead Blue Waves weren’t singing in the rain, but they were hooting and hollering, seemingly enjoying the deluge that fell from the sky.
Evidently, the Riverhead boys lacrosse players like playing in the rain. They were in their element Wednesday when off-and-on rain turned torrential at several points during their home game against Huntington at the Pulaski Sports Complex.
“We loved it,” Riverhead attackman Kamryn Gill said. “Like an outdoor water park, basically.”
And Riverhead really loved the final result. Bouncing back from a ho-hum first half, the Blue Waves outscored Huntington 10-3 in the second half for a 12-7 Suffolk County Division I victory.
Thanks in part to some tremendous faceoff work by Dan Mastropaolo, Riverhead (6-5, 5-4) snapped a 6-6 tie with successive goals by Gill, Caleb Zuhoski, Dalton Lucas (twice in succession) and Gill again to open the fourth quarter.
“We finally woke up,” Riverhead coach Vic Guadagnino said. “We’re a good team. We didn’t look like it for a lot of the game. We’re a really good team, and then it finally came out. A little bit of listening goes a long way.”
One didn’t need to be a body-language expert to tell that Guadagnino wasn’t happy with his team’s play during the first half.
“You think?” he said, smiling. “No, that’s a great way of phrasing it. I was not totally happy with what we were doing.”
Riverhead wasn’t following its game plan, he said. “We didn’t execute in any way, shape or form. Shooting on offense was mostly turnovers, and defensively we didn’t know exactly who was supposed to do what, and that’s a problem. I think our goalie [Ryan Ott] played good in the first half and that helped us and it kept us in the game, and then Mastropaolo had a phenomenal game, which changed the second half for us.”
Mastropaolo won 21 of 23 faceoffs and scooped up 16 ground balls. No other player had more than four.
“That’s what helped us make the comeback, really,” Gill said. “He is a machine.”
Mastropaolo said, “It’s just good to win faceoff by faceoff because it just puts it in my head that I have the next one, I can get the next one.”
Those faceoff wins helped fuel a Riverhead offense spearheaded by Lucas (four goals, one assist), Gill (three goals, three assists), Connor Kalmus (two goals, four assists) and Zuhoski (two goals, two assists). Connor Grauer also scored for Riverhead, which kept Huntington goalie Samuel Bergman busy, making 24 saves.
“Even [game] all the way up to the fourth quarter, really,” Gill said. “Then we broke out. It felt good to just put some in finally.”
Riverhead outshot the visitors, 53-22, and won the ground-ball battle, 33-17.
Luke Luckow (two goals, two assists) and Freddie Amato (two goals, one assist) led Huntington (5-5, 4-5).
Gill said he likes playing in the rain because, for some reason, he thinks he plays better in the rain. As it is, the junior is having quite a season, with 32 goals and 14 assists. “Feeding off of other players feeding me, basically just trying to get in the right spots to finish shots,” he said.
Guadagnino said: “He’s been having a very good season, a nice breakout season for him. He’s doing a good job. As a junior, his second year on varsity, he’s still growing and learning, as everybody is.”
As for the team, Guadagnino believes Riverhead has yet to show its full potential. “I think we just haven’t really put four quarters together yet,” he said. “When we do, we can be very, very dangerous. Let’s just hope it happens because we have some definite players on this team.”
One point on which Guadagnino has to disagree with at least some of his players is their preference for playing in the rain.
He said, “I’d rather have a nice, sunny, 65-degree day.”
Photo caption: Riverhead players huddle up before the second half in which they outscored Huntington, 10-3, for a 12-7 victory. (Credit: Bob Liepa)