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Jimmy Caddigan

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Smithtown East will face Ward Melville in Suffolk County championship May 31

 

Jason Lambert told his team to weather the storm.

Not only literally, as rain fell through the thick fog during Smithtown East’s Class A semifinal game May 25 against their in-district rivals, but because he knew that Smithtown West was going to push for a comeback.

East was leading West 7-2 heading into the fourth quarter, and despite West scoring three goals to cut down the margin, Connor DeSimone drained time off the clock, and held it during the final seconds to secure a 7-5 win for East.

The senior said his team knew it had to adopt a different strategy to seal the deal.

“That was definitely the game plan coming in — we were going to hold the ball,” he said. “We knew that if the ball was in our stick, we couldn’t lose. So we didn’t mind holding the ball during five or six minutes of good possession at a time without scoring.”

Lambert said the other main objective was to value the ball, and he liked that his team accomplished that goal — using it to capitalize on early scoring chances.

DeSimone and senior Luke Eschabach went back-to-back with unassisted goals, and then assisted on each other’s shots in East’s 4-1 first quarter.

“We’ve been playing together since we were 5 years old and we always find each other through the field,” Eschbach said. “He knows where I am, I know where he is without even looking, and he always finds the void.”

DeSimone said he knows his longtime teammate’s skills and wants to find him when he can.

“He’s an awesome shooter, a great player, and I know when I find him on the through ball, he’s going to put it in the back of the net like we’ve been doing all year,” he said.

DeSimone said the team was concerned about West’s faceoff man Conor Calderone and goalkeeper Ryan Erler.

“We weren’t letting [Ryan] Erler make the saves, who played great today,” he said, although Erler still made 12 stops, including back to back saves in the game’s final seconds. “I knew possession was crucial. They out-possessed us by two times the amount we had the ball, so knowing that we knew we had to value the ball, we had to take the best shot, not the first shot.”

Both teams went scoreless over a 20-minute span, before DeSimone found senior Dominic Pizzulli.

“We weren’t nervous at all,” DeSimone said of the drought. “It’s one play at a time. We’re not looking for home runs — there’s no superheroes on the team — if we all look out for each other and play team ball it’s going to be hard to beat us.”

Danny Riley scored twice for West, sandwiched around a goal by Jimmy Caddigan, to make it 7-5 with 7:23 left.

“We just had to make sure to manage their comeback and not give them all the momentum,” Lambert said.

West’s Brian Herber won the ensuing faceoff, and East went back to draining the clock.

“Sometimes we have letdowns, but this team knows we have ups and downs, and every single person on this team never gives up on each other,” Eschbach said. “We always stay positive, so when we lose a couple of ground balls, get a flag here and there to go a man down, we always come back and pull through.”

DeSimone said he was most excited to avenge last season’s semifinal loss to Connetquot, and is just happy to have another day of practice. Eschbach said he’d love nothing more than another county championship win over Ward Melville, like the Bulls had two years ago.

“I wanted to get here so bad my senior year,” he said. “We need to possess the ball — not throw it away — and play strong defense. If our defense plays the way it did today, I think we’ll have a very strong shot at taking that game.”

Smithtown East will face Ward Melville May 31 at Stony Brook University at 3 p.m. The winner will move on to the Long Island championship game at Stony Brook University June 3 at 10 a.m.

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Smithtown West bounced back from a tough loss to Northport with a 9-7 win over Bay Shore Tuesday.

With one game left in the regular season — a tough matchup against Division I leader West Islip — the boys’ lacrosse team has lost just four games this season, all of them one-goal games. The Bulls’ defense had a target to keep all opponents under five goals this season, and came close with 10 of its 15 competitors scoring six or fewer.

“We’ve been playing some big games lately,” said junior attack Jimmy Caddigan, who tallied a hat trick and two assists in the win over Bay Shore. “I think today we got back on track a little bit. Our defense has been playing great all year. We had some man downs that they played big on.”

Smithtown West senior attack Danny Caroussos got his team on the board first to open the game, and although Bay Shore tied it up, sophomore attack and midfielder Kyle Zawadzki scored with 15.9 seconds left in the first quarter to give his team the advantage.

Being a man down, Bay Shore was able to capitalize on the Bulls’ yellow card to again even the score. But that would be the last time the Marauders would come that close.

“Overall I though we could’ve played better — definitely not up to our potential, but coming off a loss it’s great to get back in the win column and get some momentum going into our last game of the year against a very good West Islip team coming in, especially on senior night,” Caroussos said of the May 12 game, which kicks off at 5 p.m.

Caddigan assisted on Zawadzki’s final goal of the evening, and Caroussos assisted on Caddigan’s first when he passed to the sophomore, who swiveled around the cage from the left side and scored for the 4-2 advantage.

The Bulls led by four goals twice. First, when Caddigan whipped the ball into the netting from two yards out with 30.5 seconds left in the first half, and second, when his younger brother Matt Caddigan found the net off an assist from John Hoffman.

Right before that goal that gave Smithtown West an 8-4 lead, senior midfielder Danny Varello, who won 17 of 19 faceoffs, won the draw and raced into Bay Shore’s zone, rocketing a shot in, in a play that lasted just several seconds.

Despite the showing, Smithtown West head coach Bobby Moltisanti Jr. said his team has some more work to do.

“It was a gritty win,” he said. “I felt we were inefficient on offense. There was an opportunity throughout the game where we could’ve pulled away, but we didn’t. I feel like we can play better, and the boys know they can play better. But I give the boys credit. They fought.”

His athletes agreed, but still think they have what it takes to go far.

“I think this team can beat anyone,” Jimmy Caddigan said. “We’re getting over that hump of finishing the regular-season games and we’re looking forward to the playoffs.”

Although playoffs are looming in the near future, the Bulls are looking to take it one game at a time, with the immediate focus being on their senior night game.

“They’re No. 1 right now, we have a big rivalry between us and them,” Jimmy Caddigan said of West Islip. “We play them every year and we want one more big win.”

Zawadzki said the teams needs to clean up before heading into the next matchup, but added that the win over Bay Shore was important.

“This gives us confidence going into next week and we’ll just keep it rolling,” he said.

Smithtown West was a mixed bag this season, with strong senior leadership but some big contributing underclassmen. Although plenty of strong players will be left no matter what happens this postseason, for seniors like Caroussos, heading into his last few games will be bittersweet.

“There’s definitely mixed emotions,” he said. “We have a lot of potential and the county championship is one of the goals. I think we honestly have a chance to do that. We just need to come together as one unit and keep motivating each other to play better and better, and keep finding ways to win.”