After starting off last season with a 10-0 losing streak, the Middle Country boys’ lacrosse team has already turned its game around this year, despite having it’s 2-0 record snapped by Riverhead at home, 12-4, on Monday.
The Mad Dogs first edged out Commack, 10-9, on March 25, and followed it up with a 10-2 victory at Patchogue-Medford on March 27, to remain undefeated at 2-0 in League I.
In Monday’s nonleague game against Riverhead, which stands 1-2, 0-1 in League II, the boys started off strong to begin the first and second half, but its efforts weren’t enough once the Blue Waves started rolling.
With 6:35 remaining in the first quarter, senior attacks Zach Harned and Bobby Emerson connected on a play where Harned passed the ball across the net to Emerson, who placed it in the right goal side for the 1-0 lead.
Two minutes later, Riverhead evened the scored, but Emerson scored again with 8:22 remaining in the second stanza when he scooped the ball up off an offensive rebound and rocketed it straight up the middle for a 2-1 advantage.
Riverhead scored three unanswered goals to end the second and take a 5-2 lead into halftime, and the Mad Dogs were disappointed.
“That wasn’t our usual game plan that we have,” senior defender Mike Durkin said. “We usually communicate more on defense and we were just off today.”
Middle Country turned it around after halftime, and 30 seconds into the quarter, senior midfielder Brandon Thomas fed the ball to Emerson, who scored.
Just over a minute later, Thomas crossed into Riverhead’s zone and whipped the ball into the cage from about 20 yards out, to pull the Mad Dogs within one point, 5-4.
“I thought we came out strong,” Thomas said. “Coming out in the second half I thought we gave it a good push, we just finished off a little slow. We’ve got to stick together.”
Middle Country continued to move the ball around and was strong on the clears, but ran into trouble at the faceoff and couldn’t capitalize on some of its opportunities.
Riverhead scored three unanswered goals to end the third, and scored four more in the fourth. Junior goalkeeper Christian Brody made six saves for the Mad Dogs, and backup J.D. Kane finished with three.
Thomas said the team needs to slow down its plays on offense, while Durkin believes the rotation, sliding and communication needs to be stronger on defense if the Mad Dogs want to go far this season. The boys believe they can improve on last season’s 2-14 overall and 2-12 league records though, and see playoffs as a possibility in the future.
“We’ve been coming together,” Durkin said. “We’ve been playing together since we were 5 years old so we all know each other and we know where each other is going to be [on the field].”
Thomas added: “We’re a good, close-knit group. The goal is to make the playoffs, and that’s what we’re looking to do this year.”