Boys lacrosse: Blue Waves advance with come-from-behind playoff win over Commack

Staring at a 3-0 deficit in the opening minutes of the first round of the Suffolk County Class A playoffs against Commack Saturday, the odds were instantly stacked against Riverhead. No. 11 seed Commack, who barely snuck into the playoffs, came out firing at the Pulaski Street Sports Complex with hopes of avenging a 19-9 loss to the Blue Waves earlier this season.

But Riverhead wasn’t going to go out that easy — not on their home turf. And certainly not after all they’ve been through the past few years with losing season after losing season.

“We knew what had to be done in order to win,” senior captain Griffin Sumwalt said. “We just kept our composure and focused on doing our jobs. We knew it was early and that eventually everything was going to fall into place.”

A resilient Riverhead squad emerged and showed no mercy the rest of the way. Led by a strong senior class, it was a full on scoring spree that flipped the game back Riverhead’s way.

“We had a couple bad shots early on and they made some good plays,” head coach Vic Guadagnino said. “We just needed to settle down. There was definitely a little bit of nerves out there. And just like that with five minutes left in the first quarter we banged out four straight goals to head into the break up, 4-3.”

“And that was it man,” the coach added. “The flood gates opened.”

No. 6 Riverhead (14-3) went on to score 12 more goals while only giving up one in the process to take a 16-4 lead before head coach Vic Guadagnino brought in all his substitutes.  The game ended 16-8 and Blue Waves banged the victory bell in front of the Pulaski Street school 16 times — one for each goal scored, sending echoes through the town and inking another chapter to their record-setting season.

All 16 goals were scored by seniors. Jackson Redmond and Sean Payton both tallied five apiece. Sumwalt found the back of the net four times and Zach Timpone scored twice, coming up with four assists as well. Senior Zach Maligres was dominant in the circle, winning 20 of 25 face-off attempts. Sumwalt has 54 goals on the season — a Riverhead lacrosse scoring record.

“We’ve been playing with each other since we were four years old in PAL,” Sumwalt said. “It’s been a culmination of years to get us to the point we are today. Lots of hard work and long hours together to make us feel so comfortable on the field. At the end of the day it’s the energy we all bring to the field. That’s what makes the difference.”

“This group of seniors saved Riverhead lacrosse,” Guadagnino added. “The last three graduating classes plus theirs kept this program alive. And now this class has gone down as the best in Riverhead’s history. It’s well deserved.”

With the victory, Riverhead advances to the second round of the playoffs Wednesday against No. 3 Ward Melville. Riverhead and Ward Melville matched up in the first league game of the season and the Patriots came away with the win, 14-3. 

“It was our first real competition of the season,” Guadagnino said. “They’re a dynasty over there. They produce every single year but we’re a totally different team now from the beginning of the season and we will be much more prepared this time around. [Assistant] Coach Nentwich has already watched hours and hours of film.”

Ward Melville features one of the best face-off specialists on Long Island, a major factor in most of their wins. Madden Murphy, who is committed to Boston University, will be a handful to deal with.

“If we can win some face-offs it’ll definitely put us in a spot where we can win the game,” Guadagnino said. “We’re going to have a whole new game plan this time around and if we can execute, we can absolutely win.”