Blue Waves boys lacrosse squad off to strong start

For years, Riverhead’s boys lacrosse team has taken some lumps. With many upperclassmen leaving the district following massive 2020 budget cuts — which eliminated virtually all funding for athletic programs — the Blue Waves tilted very young on varsity, fielding mostly sophomores and freshmen. Many of those underclassmen are now seniors. And it’s their turn to do some lumping.

Such was the case Friday afternoon in a non-league game against Bellport. In front of a home crowd at Pulaski Street Complex, Riverhead dismantled Bellport, 17-2, for their second consecutive win to start the season.

“We’re focused,” Riverhead head coach Vic Guadagnino said. “They know that this is a big season. They want to make the most of it. We have some serious college commit guys looking to get it done. They want to make their teammates proud, their families proud and the town proud.”

One of those seniors, Griffin Sumwalt, who has committed to the University of Massachusetts at Lowell in the fall, led the way against Bellport, scoring a game-high four goals. Through two games, he is Long Island’s top scorer with 10 goals.

“We want to make the playoffs,” Sumwalt said. “It’s been a long time coming with this group. We have the right players. We just need to pull it together as a team and keep playing hard every day.”

Fellow senior Zach Timpone was right in on the action as well, coming up with four assists on the day, connecting with sophomore attacker Logan Dempsey on three of them. Dempsey constantly rolled around the front of the net for easy feeds and capitalized when the time came.

“We have a bunch of seniors on the team but the younger guys like Dempsey are stepping up as well,” Guadagnino said. “We need everyone’s contribution if we’re going to succeed as a team this year.”

Though the goals were flying in at a furious rate, Riverhead’s defense didn’t give up an inch. Led by Binghamton University-bound Danny Healy, the Blue Waves didn’t give up a goal until late in the fourth quarter. 

“This is the first year we’ve had a really heavy senior class,” Healy said. “I am really hoping we can put it all together. We have all the parts for a successful team. The attack, the midfield, the defense, the goalie. We all have belief in one another.”

Riverhead goalie Dillon Zaleski makes the save on the low shot. (George Faella photo)

Sophomore goalkeeper Dillon Zaleski will be a major piece of the puzzle going forward as he directs the defense and comes up with crucial, timely saves. He stopped seven shots against Bellport.

“This is Zaleski’s second year on varsity,” Guadagnino said. “He puts in a lot of work in the offseason and works tirelessly at his craft. He’s only going to get better.”

Though vibes are high to start the season, the Blue Waves have so far faced less talented opponents. The true test will come when they get into the heart of their league season, which got off to a rocky start Tuesday with a 14-3 loss to perennial powerhouse Ward Melville. 

But Riverhead’s route to making the playoffs for the first time since 2019 is crystal clear: win.

“We have to beat the teams that are right in front of us that we were close with last year but couldn’t get past,” Guadagnino said. “Like the South Fork teams, Patchogue-Medford, Middle Country, [William] Floyd, Commack. If we pick off those teams we’ll be right in the mix.”