By Bill Landon
Middle Country countered Half Hollow Hills West’s four unanswered goals with four of their own to close within one in the second quarter of Division I boys’ lacrosse action Thursday afternoon, but the Mad Dogs couldn’t maintain the same level as the Colts and fell 15-9 in their second to last game of the season.
Trailing by two, Middle Country finally got on the scoreboard when junior Ryan Wheeler dished the ball to classmate and midfielder Michael Benasutti, who drove his shot home to cut the lead in half, to 2-1, at the 4:30 mark of the opening quarter.
The Colts countered by rattling off four unanswered goals in the next two minutes for a 6-1 advantage in the opening minute of the second quarter, but the Mad Dogs found a rhythm and scored four of their own, beginning with senior midfielder Kyle Stemke, to pull within one goal. Next to score was senior attack Ty Tracey, who connected for the score on a pass from senior attack David Garcia, the cutter, and Stemke struck again with a blast just outside the crease with six minutes left in the half to help his team close within two, 6-4.
“They’re a strong team — it just comes down to heart and that plays a major role in the game,” Stemke said.
Garcia’s stick spoke next when his shot stretched the net to shave the deficit to 6-5 at the 2:33 mark.
Garcia said knowing his teammates since childhood has helped the team developed a bond both on and off the field.
“We knew that they were a very good team, we worked hard and we’ve played our whole lives together,” Garcia said, adding that his team was able to come back because “we kept each other up and we stayed positive the whole way.”
The Mad Dogs came no closer though, as the Colts rattled the cage with five more goals in less than two minutes, to surge ahead 11-5 at the halftime break.
Middle Country opened the third quarter able to hold the Colts in check, and junior attack Matthew Gensinger’s drilled one past the goalie to stop the onslaught. Unlike the final minutes of the second quarter, the Middle Country defense was able to hold its opponent, limiting the Colts to just two goals in the third, but the Mad Dogs failed to score again until the final quarter.
With less than five minutes left in the game, junior midfielder Jessie McKeever fed senior midfielder Justin Eck on a cut, and he drilled his shot just inside the pipes to trail 13-7.
Middle Country kept pace the rest of the way, with junior Nicholas Belmonte and sophomore Daniel Hogan countering two Half Hollow Hills goals, but the team’s efforts were not enough to catch the Colts.
Middle Country head coach Christopher Siragusa said he thought his team would have been able to keep up with its opponent if it weren’t for the last two minutes of the second quarter.
“I thought that we could handle them,” he said. “It depended on what team we had on the field — we’re a strong character team, we fought with every team we faced this season, even the top dogs. We thought we had a good shot at it.”
Senior goalkeeper Christian Brody said he wasn’t surprised by Half Hollow Hills West, and knew he would have a busy day between the pipes.
“They’re what we expected — they’re heavy shooters and they swing the ball very well,” said Brody, who finished with 11 saves. “But it’s all about how our defense sets up, and we had great stops on defense. They did a good job.”
Stemke said he’s felt honored to play on the same field as his goalkeeper, who has worked hard to keep the team in games this season.
“Our goalie played great,” he said. “He’s having a great year and I can’t thank him enough for getting in that cage every game.”
With the loss, Middle Country drops to 4-9, and will finish out the season hosting Lindenhurst on Thursday at 7 p.m.
This version corrects the Half Hollow Hills West mascot.