Riverhead had waited 16 years for this moment, so what was another day?
Good things are worth waiting for, but Riverhead had waited long enough. Now the waiting is finally over.
A Suffolk County Class A boys lacrosse outbracket game that took two days to complete was finalized Wednesday in Riverhead’s favor. The game had started Tuesday, but was suspended because of lightning with Bay Shore leading, 7-5, in the third quarter.
Lightning struck again Wednesday, only this time it was in the form of a revitalized Riverhead offense. The Blue Waves returned to Clifton LaPlatney Field and outscored Bay Shore 6-2 on the day for an 11-9 triumph. It was Riverhead’s first playoff win in the team’s 16-year history after four playoff losses, according to Vic Guadagnino, who is in his eighth year as the team’s coach.
Tenth-seeded Riverhead (9-8) earned a place in the quarterfinals Friday at No. 2 Smithtown West (14-1).
“It feels great,” senior attack Dalton Lucas said. “It took us a while to get here. We just knew it was going to be a war today and we needed to come out on fire and we did just that.”
The game resumed Wednesday at the point it was suspended, with 5 minutes, 48 seconds left in the third quarter. This time there was no lightning, but there was plenty of rain.
No. 7 Bay Shore (11-6) stretched its lead to 8-5 on Tom Naslonski’s third goal of the game.
Successive Riverhead goals by Lucas, Connor Grauer (one goal, two assists) and Connor Kalmus (two goals, one assist) tied it at 8-8 before Terrance Day (two goals) restored Bay Shore’s lead.
But Kamryn Gill (two goals, one assist) and Caleb Zuhoski (three goals, two assists) closed out the third quarter with unassisted goals within 19 seconds of each other, making it 10-9.
Bay Shore’s Emmett Christie came up with a critical ground ball late in the fourth quarter. That helped set up a shot rifled by Naslonski that was caught nicely by freshman goalie Anthony Caputo.
Riverhead had possession late and Zuhoski raced around while being chased by defenders before depositing the ball into an open net for an insurance goal with 56 seconds to go.
The decision to score in that situation wasn’t hard since Riverhead’s Dan Mastropaolo went 21-for-22 on faceoffs.
“With a faceoff guy like Danny Mastropaolo, we know we can score because we’ll get the ball back,” Guadagnino said. “So we scored on the empty-netter and he gets us the ball back.”
Connor Batjer had two goals for Riverhead.
In addition to Naslonski’s hat trick, Bay Shore was bolstered by the play of Will Button (one goal, four assists), Robbie Saragga (one goal, three assists) and Jayson Tingue (17 saves).
“I think it was good that the lightning struck,” Lucas said. “Today we were more excited. I actually think we were more relaxed than yesterday. Yesterday kids were nervous, tight. Last night we went over some things, watched the film, came back and executed today.”
Guadagnino said: “We’ve come a long way. Now we finally have a playoff victory. The lightning definitely helped yesterday … A 23-hour timeout was kind of nice. I have the best assistant coach [Chris Nentwich] for watching film in Suffolk County, and we had kids come in and go over film with us today. It really helped. It was like coming out for a whole new fresh game. We looked like we were in the first quarter when we started. They looked like they were in the fourth quarter … We looked fresh. We listened, we learned, we adjusted.”
And they won.
It was something even a coach could appreciate on the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s Coaches Appreciation Day.
Said Zuhoski, “It was pretty good that we got a second chance because that doesn’t happen often.”
Photo caption: Riverhead players walking off the field following the first playoff win in the team’s 16-year history. (Credit: Bob Liepa)