Even winning has a downside. Teams can learn from a loss. A winning team, meanwhile, really has no cause to change things up, thus perhaps not much to learn.
That thought occurred to Shoreham-Wading River coach Michael Taylor as he contemplated his boys lacrosse team’s enthralling Suffolk County Class C semifinal loss to Bayport-Blue Point Saturday. During the regular season, SWR crushed Bayport, 18-8. But Bayport clearly learned its lessons from that game 15 days earlier, retaliating with an exciting 11-10 overtime playoff triumph to end SWR’s season.
“I just think it’s really hard to beat someone twice,” Taylor said. “They’re going to make a whole bunch of changes and we don’t want to change anything because we think it worked, so it’s a tough situation to be in. You don’t know what to really correct because you had success.”
This time around, Bayport was the teacher and SWR the student.
Bayport sticks went flying in the air in celebration after Gavin Locasio ripped in a shot 2 minutes, 45 seconds into sudden-victory OT to settle the matter at Shoreham’s Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field. Meanwhile, the Wildcats, state champions in 2019 (the last season played before the pandemic closed down the 2020 season), looked devastated, sitting on the turf and being consoled.
“We’re definitely stunned a little bit,” SWR goalkeeper Robert Troyano said. “We didn’t expect to be going out this soon.”
No wonder. The 2019 SWR team picked up its fourth state championship and first since 2012. In 2019 SWR also claimed its seventh Long Island championship and second in four years as well as its 13th county championship and third in four years. Quite a run of success.
This time overtime proved to be SWR’s undoing. SWR’s Alec Gregorek won his 15th faceoff from 20 tries to start OT, but a turnover caused when the ball ripped through the net of a SWR stick turned the ball over to Bayport (12-3). It wasn’t long after that when Locasio scored his third goal of the game and the biggest of his life.
“It felt great,” the junior midfielder said. “I mean, they’re a fantastic team. To win it like that, it’s a beautiful feeling.”
It was a game with many twists and turns. SWR (13-2) had shot out to a 3-1 lead, courtesy of first-quarter goals by Liam Gregorek (the first of his five for the game; he also had an assist), Tyler Kitchen and Jeffrey Lachenmeyer.
But Bayport reeled off five straight goals through J.J. Aiello, Zach Kroog, Ben Morris, Aiello again and Locascio for a 6-3 lead late in the second quarter. SWR managed to twice pull back and equalize at 7-7 on a Liam Gregorek strike and at 10-10 through Liam Gregorek again with 2:14 left in the fourth quarter.
“The swings, yeah,” Troyano said. “It was exciting, man. A lot of momentum changes.”
Alec Gregorek, Liam’s brother who had a game-high 11 ground balls, said, “It was just a battle from the beginning.”
Locascio said the Phantoms made a point of keeping a close eye on Johnny Schwarz (32 goals, 23 assists this season), who went scoreless, and Lachenmeyer, who entered the game with 37 goals and 29 assists, according to Newsday. Lachenmeyer had two assists to go with his goal Saturday.
SWR received a goal and an assist each from Liam Kershis and Francisco Cortes. Christopher Visintin also scored.
Troyano made seven saves, as did his counterpart, Matt Nilan.
“I came in today just wanting to play my game and, quite frankly, I couldn’t have done it without my defense,” Nilan said. “They just stepped it up today to a new level. I didn’t see many shots today that I was uncomfortable with.”
Jameson Smith was involved in five Bayport goals, scoring two and assisting on three others. Ben Morris scored twice and P.J. Shanahan notched a goal for the Phantoms, who will face Mount Sinai (14-1) in the county final Wednesday.
As much as he may not have liked the result, Taylor admired much of what he saw.
“I got to give that team a lot of credit,” he said of the Phantoms. “They played their butts off today. I thought they were well-prepared. I thought they played their hearts out. That was a great game.”