Boys lacrosse: Wildcats advance to county final

In the final stretch of the season, Shoreham-Wading River faced some struggles, losing three of their last five games. It was a learning experience for the Wildcats who wanted to be playing their best lacrosse heading into the postseason. An 8-day layoff between the end of the season and first game of the playoffs allowed the team to reset and put together a game plan for the Suffolk County Class C semifinal against Kings Park on Friday. 

A month ago, SWR and Kings Park met in a regular season clash and the Wildcats emerged victorious, 10-9, in a back-and-forth battle so the playoff tilt was expected to be hotly contested.

A pair of brothers, however, proved to the lacrosse world that the Wildcats were not only back but lightyears ahead of their opponents Friday night. Shoreham-Wading River (11-6) defeated Kings Park (10-6) handily by the score of 13-5. It was never close and substitutes even got a chance to play in the fourth quarter.

After a sloppy first few minutes, that had head coach Mike Taylor throwing his clipboard as the Wildcats turned the ball over more often than not, the Gregorek brothers put the team on their backs to send the Wildcats to their third consecutive Suffolk County Class C final.

Liam Gregorek, a senior heading to Johns Hopkins University in the fall, had three goals. None was more impressive than when he was double-teamed in the second quarter, got knocked off his feet and somehow held onto the ball, only to emerge from the turf, shake the defenders and finish with a strike past the goaltender to make it 4-2. It was a massive moment that sparked the rest of the team.

“We’ve been locked in at practice all week,” Gregorek said. “We had to ask ourselves, ‘do we really want this? What are we willing to do to win?’ We had an alum stop in to practice, Francisco Cortes, who was on the 2019 state championship team. He told us how much it matters to our community and to win a championship is something that’s very special and lasts a lifetime. That was definitely motivating for us going forward.”

Noah Gregorek, an 8th-grader starting on attack, had some issues early on this season fitting in and finding a role on a team mostly dominated by seniors. 

“I was nervous at points in the season,” Noah said. “I dropped some passes I shouldn’t have a few times this year. I’m definitely getting more confident and feel like I belong.”

The younger Gregorek had perhaps his best performance of the season —in his first varsity playoff game —scoring three goals to match his older brother. 

“We’ve always known Noah had it in him,” coach Taylor said. “I told him before the game if we get three goals out of you, we will win. And that’s exactly how it shook out.”

That 2019 state championship team also featured a young 8th-grader on the team in Liam and Noah’s older brother, Alec, who was a key factor in an explosive offensive attack. Will history repeat itself? Only time will tell.

The Suffolk County final brings another matchup against a juggernaut team in Bayport-Blue Point. It’s like a rematch of last season, when SWR took on and beat an undefeated Mt. Sinai side to advance to the Long Island Championship game. Bayport-Blue Point, the No. 1 seed sporting a 16-1 record this season, defeated the Wildcats 10-5 in the final game of the season.

“Being that it was the last game of the season and that they were always going to be the top seed and we were going to be second, we didn’t show them too much,” Taylor said. “We also had three important players missing. We’re going to be at full strength this time around and with some solid game-planning I think we will be right in the game with a chance to win. The team has been working hard and hopefully the results will speak for themselves.”

The Suffolk County Class C final will be played Thursday, May 23 at Longwood High School. Game time slated for 8 p.m.