By Clayton Collier
With 13 goals in the first half, the No. 4-seeded Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse team made quick work of No. 5 Half Hollow Hills East in a 17-1 routing Tuesday in the Suffolk County Class A quarterfinals.
Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus stressed to his team the need for a full 48 minutes of quality play to best their opponent.
“I’m very, very happy with the team’s effort today,” he said. “All year long I’ve been on them to play four quarters of Ward Melville lacrosse together, and today was it. … We put it all together today and at the perfect time. This is a very dangerous team when we can do that.”
Hills East head coach Gordie Hodgson said the Patriots were in control of the game the whole way through.
“I thought Ward Melville dominated in every aspect of the game,” he said. “They dominated on the faceoff and counter possession, and we weren’t able to generate offense because of it.”
In retrospect, all the Patriots needed was a 10-minute stretch to put the game out of reach for the Thunderbirds.
Ward Melville senior attack Dan Bucaro notched the first goal of the afternoon with just over five minutes remaining in the first quarter, muscling past a pair of Hills East defenders to sneak one past Thunderbirds goaltender Jordan Eichholz on the left side of the net. The goal was Bucaro’s first of four on the day.
“I came out fast and ready to go — the team really got me going,” he said. “Everyone came together today.”
The Georgetown University-bound senior said his work isn’t done with Ward Melville, and his goal opened the floodgates for the Patriots, as they tacked on an additional eight goals over the next 10 minutes of play.
Sophomore midfielder Eddie Munoz, who was responsible for two of those eight goals, said Negus told the team at halftime that the kind of offensive output the Patriots had has always been possible for the team.
“He said this was one of our first games this year that we played a full half,” Munoz said of Negus’ message to the team, while up 13-1. “We started off slow this season, so he said it was the first time that we started a first half well, and told us to just keep going.”
Senior attack Billy McGinley had a trio of goals, while classmates and midfielders Jake McCulloch, James Kickel and John Burgdoerfer each scored twice as well.
The lone Thunderbirds goal came on a deflection from Ward Melville junior goaltender D.J. Kellerman.
“He had a goal,” Bucaro said, with a laugh. “He played great, really. He’s just got to keep it up.”
Kellerman made eight saves on the day.
The Patriots will head to Northport Friday for the semifinals, taking on the No. 1-seeded Tigers at 4:15 p.m. at Veterans Park. Ward Melville will enter the game with a chip on their collective shoulder. The last time the two teams matched up, Northport scored four goals in the final quarter to edge out the Patriots, 7-6. Bucaro said his team is hungry to get the win the second time around.
“I’m expecting a really tough game,” he said. “They’re a very good team. We’ve got to get payback; we’ve got to get angry and be ready to play.”