Shoreham-Wading River was in unfamiliar territory, both literally and figuratively.
The Wildcats aren’t used to playing their boys lacrosse games on grass fields — or losing.
Their first game on grass this season was one they would rather forget. They fell into a 6-3 halftime hole, blew three one-goal leads and saw their spirited comeback attempt fall short against an even more spirited performance by Harborfields at James T. Brennan Memorial Field in Greenlawn Saturday. Harborfields closed out the Suffolk County Division II game on a 4-1 run with two goals by Jimmy Bifulco as well as strikes from P.J. Clementi and M.J. Buckholtz within a 7-minute, 24-second span in the fourth quarter for an 11-9 triumph. It was the fifth straight win for Harborfields (10-3, 9-3).
After Shoreham’s Xavier Arline scored the game’s final goal with 1:38 left, Harborfields ran out the clock. The Tornadoes threw gloves high in the air and their bench stormed the field to celebrate.
As for that losing thing, Shoreham’s drive for a third straight Suffolk Class C championship seems to have hit a snag. The loss was the team’s fourth in six games. Very un-Shoreham-like.
“We’re just really struggling defensively,” said coach Mike Taylor, whose team dropped to 8-6, 8-4. “We’re not sure why. We’re just not getting in a rhythm. It’s showing. I don’t know how many games in a row now we’re losing at halftime. We just seem to be digging out of a hole, digging out of a hole, digging out of a hole. It’s just hard to do. We have to make some changes.”
Asked if a leaky defense is a problem, Arline answered: “For sure, but we’re also having difficulty on offense, too. So, as a whole, you can’t put the blame on one side of the field or the other. We all have to buckle down and figure out how to make each other better.”
The game featured a showdown between two of the county’s premier scorers. Arline had four goals and three assists to bring his season totals to 41 goals and 38 assists. Clementi’s three goals and three assists gave him 39 goals and 29 assists.
Harborfields held Arline to one goal and one assist in the first half. Meanwhile, the Tornadoes capped off the second quarter with goals by Stephen Markorisa and Andrew Derasmo (two goals, one assist) for a three-goal lead, the largest margin of the game.
It took a tremendous effort by Arline to pull Shoreham back. The sophomore attack assisted on Tim Cairo’s second goal and scored himself on a behind-the-back shot, punctuated by an emphastic fist pump before John Schwarz scored off a Kyle Boden assist to tie it at 6-6.
Clementi then weaved through the Shoreham defense before firing a shot past goalie Liam Daly. Before the third quarter ended, though, Arline registered an equalizer before colliding with goalie Zack Yorio.
Zach Colucci scored off a feed from Arline for an 8-7 Shoreham lead 1:07 into the fourth quarter. Harborfields’ reply was four straight goals: an overpowering shot by Bifulco (three goals), a short-hop shot by Bifulco, a quick exchange from Derasmo to Clementi and Buckholtz’s goal, set up by Clementi.
Both goalies made six saves each. Two stops by Yorio were particularly memorable. Late in the fourth quarter, an airborne Arline let loose a shot that Yorio saved. Colucci collected the rebound, but he was stopped by Yorio as well.
“We lost to some tough teams, so give them credit for beating us with their game plans,” Arline said. “We’ve also, at the same, are beating ourselves. We’re doing the same things over and over again.”
Shoreham outshot Harborfields, 36-25, but lost the faceoff battle, 15-8.
“We’re playing very flat,” Taylor said. “I don’t think we’re playing with a lot of intensity. Our boys have to play better. If you don’t match the energy level of the other team, it’s going to be a problem.”
Shoreham defender James Mirabell, playing his first game since suffering a strained hamstring, sounded confident the Wildcats will resolve their issues.
“It’s just a bump in the road,” he said. “We’ll fix things at practice and just be ready for the next game.”
So, with the regular season winding down, can Shoreham get back on the winning track?
“We have to,” Aline said. “We have no other choice at this point.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River’s Xavier Arline goes airborne, but his shot misses the Harborfields goal. (Credit: Bob Liepa)