By Desirée Keegan
Trading in their hockey sticks for lacrosse ones changed the lives of Ward Melville’s Pallonetti brothers.
Recent graduate Ryan and soon-to-be senior Dylan were fundamental pieces to a Patriots team that pulled out back-to-back state championship titles the last two seasons.
The success was sweeter for Ryan, a Franklin & Marshall College-bound two-way midfielder, after having his stellar sophomore season cut short and missing all junior year rehabbing from a hair fracture in his hip and a torn meniscus. In his last game in the green and gold, he scored three goals and added an assist in Ward Melville’s dominating 15-2 win over West Genesee in the state finals.
“He works extremely hard — it was his time,” head coach Jay Negus said. “We saw he had that kind of stuff in him all along. Had he not been injured I think we would’ve seen all that that much sooner. But I also don’t think Ryan has reached his full potential. I think he’s ready for the next step, and I think he’s going to flourish in college.”
The injuries also changed Pallonetti’s life forever.
“I was beyond excited to finally be a part of such a great program,” he said of making the varsity team as a sophomore. “Getting injured and having it all be so short-lived sucked, but it motivated me to come back better than I was. The journey it took to get to that point — where hoisting up the championship plaque felt even better than scoring the goals — is irreplaceable. I made sure to stay disciplined with what I had to do to recover properly, and I didn’t let anything get in the way of that.”
At 4 years old he was playing hockey in the driveway with his brother. The pair also played baseball, basketball and football, and said they weren’t into lacrosse after first trying it. But they quickly grew fond of the game’s fast pace and worked well with one another.
“It’s a competitive game that takes a lot of practice and hard work,” Dylan Pallonetti said. “Ryan and I definitely have a feel for each other on the field. That chemistry developed in the driveway and on the front lawn.”
That competitive side started for the dynamic duo with Ryan growing up as a New York Rangers hockey fan, his younger brother rooting for the Islanders. That spirited side led them to test one another, especially during home games.
“Both are very fast and athletic, have great hands,” Negus said. “That’s very important in lacrosse, and I think that also can be credited to their time playing hockey.”
Ryan Pallonetti will continue to compete out on the ice, hoping to contribute to Franklin & Marshall’s club team. Dylan will be taking to the Ward Melville Patriots Ice Hockey Club team once more before heading to the University of Massachusetts in fall 2019.
The Pallonetti’s father Kevin said he and his wife Michele have been in awe of what their sons have been able to do out on the turf while also balancing their studies and time training.
“They have the confidence to go against these bigger players, and they find success,” he said. “Ryan is more of a warrior getting to ground balls and sets up the plays, always thinking and analyzing before he acts, and Dylan finishes those plays — he’s more free-flowing and just goes for it. They’re able to accomplish the goals they set for themselves.”
Dylan is a top scorer. The attack finished second on the team and 14th in the county in points with 53 goals and 21 assists behind Patriots superstar Matt Grillo, who ranked sixth in Suffolk.
“He pushed me to always play my best and his contribution to the team was very important,” Ryan said of his brother. “He has a very quick release with his shot and has a great lacrosse IQ.”
Negus said he’s hoping Dylan, his soon-to-be captain, can steer the ship in the right direction after 21 Patriots were lost to graduation.
“Dylan has been outstanding throughout his career, he’s really stepped up on the offensive side — he makes people around him better, and that’s the sign of a good leader,” Negus said. “And Dylan has never played like he’s been the younger sibling. He steps out on the field and constantly plays bigger than he is.”
Negus said he’s excited to have at least one brother for one more year.
“They’re two brothers that we’ve loved having a part of this program,” the coach said. “They’ve set their mark on it.”