In lacrosse, there’s a term “take it to ‘X,’” when a player brings the ball directly behind the goal crease. But Shoreham-Wading River was taking the ball to a different “X” Wednesday.
The X-Man, Xavier Arline, was the Wildcats’ superhero May 30, as the freshman used speed and skill to stymie an Islip surge — the Buccaneers scored four fast goals to pull within one and make it a close game — to lift Shoreham-Wading River to its second straight Suffolk County Class C title with a 13-7 win over Islip. The title marks the 12th in program history.
Arline had a highlight reel play at the 7:48 mark of the fourth quarter, after Islip opened with four goals in a two-minute span, he stole the ball from the opposing goalkeeper on a ride, and no-look passed behind his back to senior Chris Gray for an empty-netter.
“I was just trying to help my team win,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to do too much, I wasn’t trying to do too little. I was just making the plays to help my team win.”
He said during practice, head coach Mike Taylor lets the team be free and creative, which made the eye-popping play feel routine.
“When I saw Chris out of the corner of my eye, I picked it up and threw it like it was natural,” he said. “I didn’t even think twice.”
Gray said Arline’s play wasn’t surprising to him either.
“Xavier is a beast — he used his athleticism,” he said. “And he’s only a freshman, which is really scary.”
Arline had two goals and two assists before that score that extended Shoreham-Wading River’s lead to 9-7. Senior Kevin Cutinella followed with his hat trick goal on a man-up opportunity, and from there, it was Gray’s turn to step up.
Gray went coast to coast, scored off a pass from Arline after Cutinella carried the ball into Islip’s zone, and added another unassisted goal to cap off the five-goal Wildcats run. Gray finished with five goals and one assist.
“We used a lot of teamwork,” Gray said. “We told ourselves we wanted to jump out on them early, get a fast lead, then kind of take the air out of the ball and let our offense do its thing — because we have one of the best offenses on the Island, I have full confidence to say that. They make me a better player.”
He said the team’s defense doesn’t get a lot of credit, especially being that Gray is second in Suffolk County scoring behind Smithtown East’s Connor DeSimone, but it was hard to miss senior James Mirabell locking down a strong Islip offense, and racing to ground balls that led to crucial possession. The defense, also led by Dan Cassidy and Kyle Higgins, helped protect goalie Andrew DePalma, who made five saves.
“I think it’s the best defense we played all year,” Arline added. “We faced some adversity but we buckled down.”
During the lapse that saw Islip pour in four straight goals, Cutinella said his team fell flat.
“We were complacent,” he said. “And getting a penalty drained us.”
He credited Arline’s goal for sparking Shoreham-Wading River to get back on its game.
“You can’t teach that,” Cutinella said of the Arline to Gray play. “He’s making plays, getting everyone rowdy. It changed the game. That lights us up.”
Taylor said the Wildcats closing out the show the way they did was something he expects from his high-powered offense.
“They were resilient — Islip was battling back and I’m so proud of how they stood their ground,” he said. “We bent but we didn’t break.”
The head coach added that his team will celebrate, but just for a short time before getting back to work, because after last season’s state semifinal loss, the team feels it has some unfinished business. Arline said after being a part of the county and Long Island championship-winning team last year getting to that level almost becomes an addiction.
“It’s a feeling you want to get back every single year,” he said. “Our goal is to get a state championship and we’re one step closer.”
Shoreham-Wading River will play Cold Spring Harbor in the Long Island championship at Stony Brook University June 3 at 3 p.m.