Bulls edge out Ward Melville in nonleague season opener

Bulls edge out Ward Melville in nonleague season opener

Smithtown's Matt McDonnell gets his head on the ball during a game against Ward Melville. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Bulls came out charging and are off to a good start after blanking Ward Melville 1-0 in a nonleague season opener for both teams Tuesday.

But Smithtown West head coach Tom Lips said he’d like to see more out of his team.

“We looked like it was preseason,” he said. “The kids were heavy and we’ve done a lot of fitness over the past week or so. But for what they had gone through physically with the bus trip and the heat wave and all of that, I thought they did a good job.”

Both teams started off trading possession for the first 20 minutes with neither team dominating before the referees called for a water break on account of the high heat index.

“We came in flat,” Ward Melville head coach Jon Stecker said. “Usually we come in and I’m worried about the young guys, but the young guys played well. I definitely need more leadership from my seniors. I think that’s where we had some problems today.”

Smithtown's Harrison Weber gets in front of a Ward Melville player as he reaches for possession. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Smithtown’s Harrison Weber gets in front of a Ward Melville player as he reaches for possession. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The game remained scoreless after the first half. And coming back onto the field more rejuvenated, Smithtown West senior forward Matt McDonnell stuffed the ball into the right goal side after a cross and rebound less than 15 minutes into play to give his team its first goal and, ultimately, the win.

Smithtown West came close to another goal at the 20:11 mark with a shot just above the goalkeeper’s head, but Ward Melville senior Peter Jespersen reached up toward the crossbar and just grazed the ball with his fingertips before pulling it down for the stop.

“I think we’ve been coming together well,” Stecker said. “We are young, but we still have high expectations for these guys. Today was disappointing, because we can play better than we did today.”

Ward Melville junior midfielder Jared Lee said he thinks his team didn’t play as good as it could, and said the Patriots have been coming together, but still have a long way to go.

“We were just too soft and we were scared of the ball,” he said. “We didn’t play well at all. We need to work on playing together and connecting everywhere on the field.”

For Stecker, he said he’d like to see his seniors step up.

“We need to work on communication a little bit and that’s one of the issues when you have a young team,” he said, with a starting lineup that boasts seven seniors and three sophomores. “The sophomores hesitate at times to communicate because other guys are significantly older than them, so we have to get past that. We also need to stick to our game plan, and our game is to put the ball on the ground and play. We got into their kick-and-run style, and they’re more physical than us and faster than us, so we can’t play to their strengths — we need to stay consistent and play to ours.”

The Bulls got one more chance with less than 10 minutes left to play with a quick shot toward Jespersen, but he was able to grab the ball and pull into his chest for his final save of the day.

“The matchup against Ward Melville was very physical, like usual, and we’re going to see that all season — we just have to work hard and keep our minds straight,” Smithtown West senior forward John Barone said. “We can always work harder. It’s just the beginning of the season; we need to work out the kinks.”