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Boys Lacrosse: Riverhead hopes for sunnier days

When it rains, it pours. That can be true for lacrosse as well as the weather.

The Riverhead High School boys lacrosse team knows all about raining and pouring. A combination of the coronavirus pandemic and a failed school budget had put the Blue Waves’ 2021 season in jeopardy. Some Riverhead players defected to other schools and the Blue Waves suffered a significant talent drain. Along with the quality, went the quantity.

Player numbers fell dangerously low. The program was close to being KO’d. If not for the efforts of seniors like goalie Anthony Caputo, midfielder C.J. Dorr and defenseman Drew Marchini, it would have been difficult for Riverhead to field a team this spring, said coach Vic Guadagnino.

“I don’t know if we would have had the numbers,” he said.

Goalie Anthony Caputo brings the ball into Riverhead’s offensive zone. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

Recruiting was done, the team (young and largely inexperienced) was formed and a season was salvaged.

Caputo, Dorr and Marchini are the sole remaining players from the 2019 team, which last played a season before the 2020 campaign was canceled because of the pandemic. The new Blue Waves include four on their 18-player active roster who had never played before this season.

“We had a lot of kids leave,” Dorr said. “We were just dealing with what we had.”

It’s a rebuild with a virtually clean slate. Riverhead ventured into the brave, new world of pandemic lacrosse, taking its lumps against some of the best of what Suffolk County Division I has to offer.

“When you have no numbers and no experience, it’s very hard to compete at the Division I level,” said Caputo.

In light of that background, the pouring rain and gusting wind Saturday morning at Sachem North High School was just another obstacle Riverhead had to face.

The result — a 16-5 Sachem North win — was all-too familiar, but given what Riverhead has been through, entirely understandable. Riverhead (3-9, 3-9), which started the day 19th among the division’s 22 power-rated teams, lost for the seventh time in nine games.

Playing with only 16 players, the Blue Waves could be grateful that Dorr was among them. What does Dorr do for Riverhead? A better question might be: What doesn’t he do for Riverhead?

Dorr, who will play for Wingate University (N.C.) next season, scores goals, takes shots, scoops up ground balls, takes faceoffs. You name it.

“On our team he’s just kind of head and shoulders above the rest of the guys,” said Guadagnino.

Dorr had a full game. The fruits of his labor: four unassisted goals, 12 shots, six ground balls and 9-for-18 on faceoffs. He has 26 goals and 11 assists this season.

“He does everything for us, except save the ball,” Guadagnino said. “That’s where Anthony comes in.”

Riverhead hasn’t come up against a better goalie than Caputo, said Guadagnino. “We just happen to have one of the best goalies in the county,” he said.

Ryken Kutner powers toward the goal with a Sachem defender in hot pursuit. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

Caputo, a four-year starter who made a season-high 19 saves against Smithtown West earlier, is accustomed to seeing shots, lots of them.

“He’s been an exceptional player,” Guadagnino said. “He’s an exceptional athlete. He’s one of the fastest guys we ever had on the team. His hand speed is insane and just his courage. He faces 40 shots a game, at least. He just gets peppered with shots constantly. He’s just off the charts.”

Caputo, who made eight saves Saturday, also had to contend with the difficult weather conditions. “When the rain started to pick up it was just very hard to see the ball because it was coming down at an angle,” he said, “it wasn’t just coming straight down, and the wind was just humming.”

Meanwhile, senior defensemen Jack Qualey and Marchini have been doing what they can to help.

Sachem North (5-7, 5-7) brought too much firepower, though, flinging in the first five goals, including two of Matthew Keegan’s three goals (he also had three assists). Anthony Martino fired in four goals, Shane Marconti had two goals and an assist and Nick Nacarrato scored twice to lead the Flaming Arrows.

Riverhead’s fifth goal late in the game was scored by Daniel Squires off an assist by Ryken Kutner.

As Guadagnino sees it, Riverhead’s veteran leaders are providing a bridge to the program’s future and better days ahead.

“We have really, really quality kids,” he said. “One thing that the Riverhead community should be proud of is we have good quality human beings, trying to keep this sport going in their community.”