As the Riverhead High School boys lacrosse team walked off of Robert W. Pratt Field, its supporters — about three dozen fans who made the trip — gave the Blue Waves a rousing reception.
And for good reason.
The 10th-seeded team in the Suffolk County Class A playoffs had played its hearts out in a 10-7 quarterfinal loss to No. 2 and host Smithtown West Friday night.
Head coach Vic Guadagnino could not have asked for anything more from his team.
“That was maximum effort,” he said. “We gave it everything we had. There wasn’t a kid who held back the entire game. From the start to finish, we played our hearts out. I’m very proud of our guys.”
The Blue Waves (9-9) might have ended the most memorable season in their 16-year history with a loss, but certainly it was on a high note. They won their first postseason game ever — an 11-9 win over Bay Shore Wednesday that took two days to complete due to inclement weather.
“I’m happy. I’m happy,” said senior Dalton Lucas, who had two goals and an assist Friday. “This is my last game ever playing high school lacrosse. It was the way to go out. We got our first playoff win the other day against Bay Shore. That was phenomenal. It felt great. Today, go down fighting.”
Exactly two weeks ago, on May 4, Smithtown West (15-1) manhandled Riverhead on the same field, 17-8.
This time, however, the Bulls had their hands full to move on as they advanced to next Thursday’s semifinals against the winner of the Half Hollow Hills East-Commack quarterfinal.
“This time we put all the chips on the line,” said junior attack Kamryn Gill, who tallied a short-handed goal in the third period.
Guadagnino said the difference was his team’s “energy level.”
“Just not being scared of the jersey, the program,” he said. “They’re pretty strong. They’re ranked pretty high in the country. We just gave everything. We had nothing to lose. No one expected us to be in the game, so we were going to give it maximum effort and hopefully at the end we’ll win the game. We came up a little bit short, but we had a chance.”
Riverhead set the tone early, playing a hard-nosed defense and grabbing a 1-0 lead on a Lucas goal with 6 minutes, 15 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
“We wanted to set the tone, come out physical, fight for ground balls, get all the ground balls,” Gill said. “Just keep hustling.”
Added Guadagnino: “You’ve got to be aggressive. If you’re not aggressive you have no chance, so we gave it all we had.”
After Matt Caddigan and Spencer Frank lifted the Bulls to a 2-1 lead, the Blue Waves tied it on Lucas’ second goal off a fastbreak early in the second period.
“We picked it up today,” Lucas said. “In the game before, we were here, but we weren’t here mentally.”
The Blue Waves certainly were Friday.
It turned into a see-saw battle. Marc Cottage gave Smithtown West a 3-2 lead before senior Connor Grauer tied it with the first of his three goals with 4:50 remaining in the second quarter. The Bulls, however, took the lead for good at 4-3 on Danny Caddigan’s score with 4:16 left in the period.
Riverhead was forced to chase the rest of the game as attack John Hoffman (four assists) took over, scoring all three of his goals in the second half.
Still, there seemed to be more enthusiasm from the Blue Waves’ bench and fans than from Smithtown West. Every time Riverhead scored of forced a turnover, its bench went wild, as did its backers.
Sometimes, the support might have been just a too much. With 2:18 remaining in the third quarter, one of the referees stopped the game over some abusive language from Riverhead fans. He asked Guadagnino and several players to calm down the fans.
“The one official felt offended what they were saying,” Guadagnino said. “Part of being an official is having thick skin. I guess his is a little thin. He was upset.”