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Chaminade

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Dylan Pallonetti moves the ball around the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Ward Melville’s boys’ lacrosse team suffered a stinging defeat to end their season- opening four-game winning streak against rival Chaminade April 8, dropping the tough nonleague battle 7-5.

“We didn’t play as best as we could against Chaminade,” senior attack Jack Purdy said, adding that despite the Patriots’ 9-5 bounce-back win over West Islip April 10, to increase the team’s League I win streak to five, more work still needs to be done. “We’re still trying to look for the best game possible. We’re still looking to fire on all cylinders on defense, offense and faceoffs.”

Zach Hobbes challenges a West Islip defender as he moves the ball toward the net. Photo by Desirée Keegan

In the first half of the win over West Islip, junior attack Matt Grillo had his fingerprints all over the game. He scored the first goal of the game, assisted senior midfielder Eddie Munoz on the next, and found the back of the cage off a feed from sophomore attack Dylan Pallonetti later.

“We prepared by watching film on West Islip and looking for their plays and certain techniques they use on the field, and how to counter those techniques,” Munoz said of his team’s readiness. “But it was so close in the first half.”

West Islip came back to tie it, 3-3, but Grillo scored an unassisted goal for a hat trick with three seconds left in the first half.

“I think both of our faceoff guys did very well and so did our goalie,” Munoz said. “I think as a whole we played for each other and gave great effort.”

Matt Grillo and Dom Pryor celebrate a goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Ward Melville came out firing from the opening minutes of the second half, and at the 10:51 mark, a Perry Cassidy save, one of the senior’s 10 for the game, sparked junior midfielder Zach Hobbes’ unassisted goal. He bulled his way up the middle between two defenders to the front of the cage to extend the lead. Minutes later, Pallonetti scooped up a Grillo rebound and gave his team a 6-3 advantage. Cassidy ended the quarter with a save to preserve the third-quarter shutout.

“It felt good to dominate a little bit,” Munoz said of the second half.

Senior midfielder Dominic Pryor was next to get on the scoreboard. Catching West Islip off guard, he saw the open lane, and instead of passing, made his way toward the cage and fired away.

“It was great to seal the win in the second half against a team that’s more than capable of coming back when they are down,” Pryor said. “My team was able to focus on possessions in the second half, and overall playing team offense and defense, not relying on any individual. The chemistry this team has is very special and I think that will continue and grow throughout the year.”

Purdy had a hand on the next two goals, assisting Pallonetti, who had an open look after Purdy skipped passing to the middleman.

Jack Purdy passes from behind the goal to Dylan Pallonetti, who scores on the skip pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I knew he was open,” Purdy said of Pallonetti. “He did a good job of reading the defense and getting in the right position. I gave it to him, and he took a good shot to the top left.”

Despite West Islip finally breaking through in the second half, with back-to-back goals with four minutes remaining, Purdy helped stabilize the game. He passed from behind the cage to Munoz at the front of the net for the final goal of the game.

“Eddie Munoz made a good shot right in front of the crease that saved me,” Purdy said. “It wasn’t the best pass, but a good goal.”

The senior attack said he hopes his team can continue to work on coming out strong, to be able to keep a new streak running through the remainder of the season.

“We need to step it up a little bit in the first half,” Purdy said. “We let up a few goals that we shouldn’t have, and we need to hold onto the ball better on offense, move it around and get better shots. We try to get out and score, put a bunch of goals in, dodge hard and look for the open seams in the defense. Coach said when we play to our best abilities we can win any given game on the schedule.”

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Corey Aviles, after forcing a turnover, races across the field and fires a shot across the net for a Patriots goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Being down 3-1 early against championship-caliber boys’ lacrosse program in Chaminade didn’t scare the Ward Melville Patriots.

The host team bounced back to tie the game in the second quarter and eventually edged ahead, holding onto a marginal lead to pull away with a 7-5 nonleague win.

“Chaminade is a great program,” Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus said. “It was a slugfest and our boys took a big step beating a powerhouse like Chaminade and I’m very proud of them. Even though it wasn’t as pretty as I would have liked in terms of execution — we had some breakdowns — we just wanted to put four quarters together and we did that today. We got the result we were looking for.”

Danny Bucaro maintains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Danny Bucaro maintains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Both teams came out on fire right off the opening faceoff, and Chaminade scored two quick goals before Ward Melville put its first point on the board to cut the deficit in half. The two teams traded possession with some passing miscues, and at the end of the first quarter the score remained 2-1.

The Flyers (now 8-2, 5-0 NSCHSAA AAA) scored again in the opening minutes of the second to edge ahead with a score of 3-1, but the Patriots (now 10-2, 6-2 League I) answered back with two quick goals. The first was a stick-side high left shot by junior midfielder Owen McAvoy to cut the lead to one. The second was a rocket from the right goal post by senior midfielder Corey Aviles after he forced a turnover in the Patriots zone, carrying it all the way down the field for the tying goal at 3-3.

“It’s great to get a big win against a school like Chaminade,” McAvoy said. “It’s the first game we really came out here and went balls to the wall — and put it to them.”

McAvoy added another goal off an offensive rebound that shocked the Chaminade goalkeeper, and Aviles tallied his second point with nine seconds left in the half to give his team a 5-3 advantage heading into halftime.

Negus addressed his team during the break and explained to his athletes that the game was all about seizing the opportunities when they were presented to them.

“You guys are taking that next step to be at that level with this team,” he said. “We got to give the defense a rest. Bury the ball and make this game out of reach.”

Still struggling to win possession at the faceoff, Chaminade capitalized early in the third to make it 5-4, but Ward Melville junior goalkeeper D.J. Kellerman came through with two big saves to preserve the one-goal advantage.

D.J. Kellerman attempts a save. Photo by Desirée Keegan
D.J. Kellerman attempts a save. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I felt confident,” Kellerman said. “A little shaky in the beginning, but my defense really shut it down. I love them — they’re great.”

Ward Melville ripped another crossing shot to bring the advantage back to two, 6-4, and Kellerman caught another save to maintain the lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Senior midfielder Jake McCulloch rocketed a shot from nearly 20 yards early in the final stanza, and Chaminade scored once more a minute later. Kellerman made three big saves in the final minutes to keep the Flyers at bay and seal the Patriots’ 7-5 victory.

“It’s a big win for us as a program,” Kellerman said. “We had a tough loss against Northport [6-7, on April 22] but we bounced back. Coach did a great job getting us ready and we’re a hardworking team.”

What McAvoy said he thinks continues to lead the players to success is that ability to continue to fight, even when the team is down.

“We were fighting for ground balls and hustled all over the field,” he said. “We were fired up in the locker room and thought this could be a big statement make for us. We laid some bodies all over the field and really made them feel our presence.”

Aviles and McAvoy finished with two goals each, and McCulloch and senior attack Danny Bucaro tacked on a goal and an assist apiece, while Kellerman made 13 saves on the evening.

Ward Melville was scheduled to host Brentwood on Wednesday. The Patriots will travel to Patchogue-Medford on Friday, and the opening faceoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

“We’ve been talking about fighting back against adversity and that shows the character of the team,” Negus said. “Today we showed that we can battle back against the best of them.”