The Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats have good memories. They haven’t forgotten.
SWR’s 11-10 overtime loss to Bayport-Blue Point in last year’s Suffolk County Class C boys lacrosse semifinals still stings. A heartbreaking loss like that will stay with a team for a while. However, a bit of that pain may have been eased by a small sliver of redemption Friday.
In SWR’s biggest test yet in this young season, the Wildcats gained a small measure of redemption, taking the game to Bayport from start to finish, never trailing and posting an 11-5 Suffolk County Division II win at Shoreham’s Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field. If the Wildcats needed further inspiration, they were playing for their coach, Michael Taylor, who missed the game, serving a one-game suspension.
“You know we lost to them last year and we wanted to get them back,” midfielder Ryan Herr told reporters. “We didn’t have our coach, so we wanted to play for him with a chip on our shoulder.”
Steven Cain and Alec Gregorek-Ali — SWR’s top point producer through four games with 16 goals and five assists — had three goals and an assist each. Herr (two goals, two assists), Liam Kershis (two goals, one assist) and Francisco Cortes handled the rest of SWR’s scoring. But Liam Gregorek-Ali, Alec’s brother, made a tremendous impact as well, dominating the faceoff X, 14-4, as well as collecting a game-high 13 ground balls and picking up an assist.
“We have a lot of chemistry,” Alec Gregorek-Ali said. “You know, there isn’t just one of us that’s scoring all the goals and stuff. I feel like it gets very shared and we run our offense very well and composed and our defense is staying aggressive, which we like.”
SWR held a 33-28 advantage in shots and won the battle for ground balls, 24-14.
Assistant coach Dan Luciano, filling in for Taylor, called it “a huge test. Bayport-Blue Point is an incredible program. They have a lot of Division I commits, they’re very well-coached. They beat us in the playoffs last year, so that was a huge litmus test.”
SWR earned its fourth win in as many games this season, all division contests. Bayport dropped to 3-2, 3-1.
Entering the game, SWR sat in second place in the 24-team division, one notch ahead of Bayport. Tabbed by Newsday as one of the top 10 teams on Long Island, Bayport is a team to be taken seriously.
But SWR goalies Jaden Galfano and Angelia Price combined for 17 saves against a Bayport team that had pumped in 51 goals in its previous four games.
P.J. Shanahan brought Bayport three goals, with Ben Morris and Maclin Keyser (who also had an assist) scoring the others. Jameson Smith and Connor Curran had two assists each.
SWR could have considered this a statement game.
“We went out there strong,” Cain said. “We wanted to win that game.”
Had Taylor been there, he undoubtedly would have liked what he saw. Luciano certainly did.
“I’m very satisfied not only in the win [but] the behavior of the players to respond without their coach,” he said. “I’m ecstatic. I was very worried and concerned coming in today without Coach Taylor being here, but they responded. They’re very smart. They’re good lacrosse players and they have unlimited potential. They’re as good as any Shoreham team that’s ever been here.”
That quality showed as Herr helped SWR to a 4-0 lead with both of his goals, the second a superb solo effort 45 seconds into the second quarter.
Later in the quarter, Morris whipped in a man-up goal to pull Bayport within 5-2, but SWR ramped things up from there, tallying the next four goals. Among them was a powerful rocket of a shot by Cortes to the upper left corner. Bayport wasn’t closer than within five goals of SWR after that.
“We were very prepared for this game, you know,” Herr said. “We came in hard, very energetic. We wanted it and we came out with a win.”
“It’s a huge win for us,” Alec Gregorek-Ali said. He continued: “I feel like we’re definitely underdogs compared to how they’re rating Mount Sinai and all those other big teams, but we can play, clearly. And, you know, we’ll see. We’ll continue to get better and we’ll see where we’re at in the final stretch of the year.”
The Wildcats want to finish the season with a better memory than their end to 2021.