The Tigers fought tooth and nail to top Sachem North, 14-12, on Tuesday afternoon.
Despite being down early, the Northport boys’ lacrosse team battled back to grind out another victory, to take a 16-0 win streak into the postseason, after going 11-0 in League I to earn the No. 1 seed.
“It’s very satisfying because the boys showed the traits they’ve had all season,” Northport head coach George Searing said of the win over Sachem. “They met some adversity, but the nice thing was that they didn’t fold. They persevered and they came back the way we were expecting them to.”
Northport scored an early goal, but Sachem countered a minute later, scored again, and didn’t trail thereafter until midway through the third quarter.
“It’s sort of been their trademark all year,” Searing said. “They don’t let this stuff bother them because they work real hard in practice and we prepare for situations, so it didn’t surprise me one bit that even though we got down and things were going against us, we still persevered and found a way to stick with the program, move forward and find a way to score those winning goals.”
Senior attack and co-captain Rocco Sutherland scored to tie the game at 2-2, and after two Sachem goals, one with 40 seconds left in the quarter, scored again with five ticks left on the clock to pull the team within one, 4-3.
Sachem pulled out to a 6-3 lead after Northport turned the ball over several times, and after a few key saves by senior goalkeeper and co-captain Scott Hatch, junior defender Finn Goonan recovered the ball at midfield and took it all the way for the score with 31 seconds left in the halftime, to close the gap 6-4.
The coaches pumped up their players in the huddle before they took to the field for the third time, shouting: “Take a look around you. I want to see people who are ready to go. Take it one play at a time. Focus. Who cares what they think is going to happen out there. We know what’s going to happen out there.”
Senior midfielder Nick Roros said something clicked for his team that the Tigers were able to pull it together.
“Our communication was weak in the beginning, but after halftime, we really communicated very well together and we understood what had to happen,” he said. “And we made it happen.”
Senior midfielder, faceoff specialist and co-captain Austin Henningsen also thought things changed for his team after halftime.
“We were down in the beginning, which was tough for us, but something really happened at halftime,” he said. “Coach got us fired up and we scored two goals in the first minute or minute and half, and we took off from there.”
Roros received a pass after a ground ball scoop up off the center draw, and rocketed a shot in at the 11:47 mark to pull his team within one goal, 6-5.
Two minutes later, senior attack Jake Carroll scored his second goal of the game while Sachem was a man down, to retie the game, 6-6.
After senior goalkeeper and co-captain Billy Kelly made a save in goal for the Tigers, Roros scored off an assist from sophomore Ryan Magnuson to give the Tigers their first lead since the first goal of the game.
Sachem tied the game and continued the pattern of last-second goals, scoring with nine seconds remaining in the third to pull ahead 8-7, but after Henningsen won the faceoff, senior attack Jack Sullivan answered with a buzzer-beater to tie the game, again.
Henningsen, who won 24 of 29 faceoffs, opened the fourth winning another, and faked a pass he took all the way to goal for the score and a 9-8 lead.
“I love throwing a fake pass, it’s a great play. I was running down off the faceoff, threw the fake pass to Roros and the guy fell for it, I kept going straight down and put it in the back of the net. But they have a great goalkeeper — he’s outstanding. I was even surprised it went in,” he said with a laugh.
Carroll and Magnuson connected for a goal for the second time in the game, this time to give the team its first advantage of the game, 10-8.
Kelly made another save, but Sachem grabbed the rebound and found the back of the net. The Tigers scored again, but Sachem countered with two goals to tie the game, 11-11.
Northport wouldn’t let Sachem take the lead again, and Henningsen won the ensuing faceoff and passed the ball to Roros in front for his hat trick goal.
“I think we all just realized that this could be our last game playing together,” Roros said. “We’ve all played together since we were little kids; we all love playing together and we didn’t want this to be our last time.”
Henningsen continued his dominating performance at midfield, leading to Sutherland’s third and fourth goal, as the Tigers pounced out in front, 14-11.
With 29 seconds left on the clock, Sachem gained possession after the ball rolled out of bounds, and scored with 11 seconds remaining in the game. Sachem called two timeouts in a row, but turned the ball over, and Northport held on for the 14-12 win.
“The biggest thing was Austin Henningsen on the faceoffs,” Searing said. “No matter what they did, we knew we would get the ball back, and that’s a very big confidence booster for a lot of our guys, because even if we make a mistake and we give up a goal, we know we’re going to get the ball back.”
Henningsen admits he started off a little shaky, but found his rhythm.
“They had some good defensive tactics on the faceoff today, but I figured it out toward the end,” he said of the team’s three-player lineup he was not accustomed to. “I knew what I was doing and I got comfortable with it, and kept winning. And the wing guys were phenomenal — boxing out so I could scoop it up.”
Searing continued to credit Henningsen, adding that because the team can continue to win possession after a score, as long as they don’t make too many mistakes and turn the ball over, teams don’t get on a scoring run against the Tigers, while, if Northport remains mistake-free, the team will continue to win faceoffs and score goals for runs of their own.
“He’s a very special player.” Searing said of Henningsen. “He’s got the heart of a lion and he was exhausted getting fouled and slashed, and he still persevered and sacrificed so the team could win this game.”
No. 1 Northport will host No. 4 Ward Melville at Veterans Park Friday at 4:15 p.m. in the Class A semifinal match, where the team hopes to keep its streak alive.
“We’re confident that we’re going to come out and play just the way we have been,” Searing said. “ It’s been a winning formula so far, so we’re hoping it can continue.”