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.”
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.
“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.”