If the Riverhead Blue Waves felt like they were in unfamiliar territory Thursday, it’s because they were. They were home!
Riverhead had played eight of its previous 11 boys lacrosse games on the road. Funny as it sounds, the question was posed to coach Vic Guadagnino: Does it feel weird playing at home?
“It is a little bit,” he replied. “We’re used to being on the bus.”
The road has been kind to Riverhead, though. The Blue Waves entered Thursday’s game in sixth place in Suffolk County Division I, the highest they had ever been in the standings at this point in a season. And, with their 9-8 win over Sachem North at Pulaski Sports Complex, Riverhead (9-3 overall) brought its division record to 7-3, something else it had never had before, said Guadagnino.
“It’s a lot of good stuff,” he said.
The good stuff kept coming. Unassisted fourth-quarter goals by Shane Coleman and Chris Timpone gave Riverhead a 9-7 lead with 3 minutes, 25 seconds left.
Sachem North (7-4, 6-4) made things uneasy for Riverhead, though. Patrick Schuett (two assists), running from behind the net, fed Matt Keegan (two goals, one assist) for a goal, making it a one-goal game with 3:01 to go.
Later, an errant pass gave Riverhead possession. Riverhead’s Connor Kalmus was moving the ball at midfield when he was leveled by a Sachem North player with 16 seconds left on the clock. Pushing and shoving followed as players from both sides rushed to the scene. When order was restored, Sachem North’s Trey Aronow was ejected for leaving the bench area. Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were assessed to Sachem North’s Joe Karnich and Riverhead’s Aiden Fitzpatrick and Kalmus.
When the game resumed, Coleman ran out the clock and flung the ball high in the air before rushing to celebrate with his teammates.
“It was a big one,” said Riverhead attackman Kamryn Gill, who had three goals and one assist. “We needed this win.”
Caleb Zuhoski and Timpone had two goals each for Riverhead, which also received a goal and an assist from Kalmus. Danny Mastropaolo won 16 of 21 faceoffs.
The game was as close as one might expect of two teams next to each other in the standings (Sachem North was seventh). It saw four ties and two lead changes.
The biggest margin of the game was three goals, when Riverhead shot out to a 3-0 lead on opening strikes by Zuhoski, Gill and Zuhoski again. Riverhead was held scoreless in the second quarter and went into halftime trailing, 5-4.
A shorthanded goal by Matt Griffin put Sachem North up, 7-6, with 1:51 left in the third quarter. But Gill’s third goal of the day — he stepped left and then right before whipping his shot past Anthony Mancino (nine saves) — evened things at 7-7 before the quarter ended.
Cole Stassi and James Butler netted two goals each for Sachem North, and another came from Aronow.
Riverhead got a big boost from its goalie, Anthony Caputo, who made nine saves while playing behind a defense of Fitzpatrick, Travis Hayon and Alex Jacobs.
Guadagnino said: “I thought Anthony was fantastic … I thought this was a big game for him, a real come out, confident game. He just looked assured of himself at all times for all four quarters and that was big for us.”
Caputo, a sophomore, was brought up to the varsity team about three-quarters of the way through last season and was a starter for the playoffs. He has started every game this season.
“I’ve been playing decent,” he said. “Against the better teams I’m playing very well. My coaches help me out with a lot of the technical stuff, which is giving me the ability to make more saves.”
What makes Caputo a good goalie?
“He has nice hands,” Guadagnino said. “He’s got nice leadership ability. He can make good saves, always in good position. He’s very level-headed, doesn’t get emotional.”
The game had added meaning for Riverhead assistant coach Chris Nentwich, a Sachem alum.
More importantly, it keeps Riverhead on track for a strong finish to a promising regular season. Three of the team’s last four regular-season games will be at home.
So, what does Guadagnino like best about what the Blue Waves have been doing?
“Winning,” he said, laughing. “They really play for each other.”
Photo caption: Riverhead’s Shane Coleman looks for room to operate while Sachem North’s Michael Bellomo tries to keep him in check. (Credit: Bob Liepa)