As the crowd and sideline erupted over a stretch of three minutes in the third quarter, it seemed like the Patriots couldn’t miss.
In fact, they didn’t, as the Ward Melville’s boys’ lacrosse team scored six times on six shots during that span, on the way to a 15-6 Class A semifinal win over Half Hollow Hills East May 25.
“We’ve been here before, and we were pumped up,” junior Zach Hobbes said. “We knew we had to come out fired up, because there was a chance we were going to go home.”
An early ouster from the playoffs seemed like a remote possibility coming into the game for two-loss Ward Melville, after Hills East gave the Patriots all they could handle in a triple overtime, 8-7 thriller during the regular season, but the second-half scoring spurt erased that possibility. Hobbes found the back of the net for the first of the six goals, which was his third of the game. Junior Matt Grillo scored twice to complete his hat trick, and junior Michael Giaquinto also scored twice, directly off faceoff wins.
“We played more unselfish,” Grillo said. “Last time we played them, we had a lot of individuals doing their stuff, and this time we looked for the open man, and it worked.”
The Patriots were riding a 6-2 halftime advantage into that 6-0 run. The last goal of the second quarter fired up Grillo and senior Eddie Munoz, inspiring the team to come out even quicker after the break.
Grillo intercepted a Hills East pass attempt by the goalkeeper, and with Kyle Bockelman outside of his posts, Grillo saw the opportunity at an empty-netter with Munoz at his side.
“I saw the rusty pass and I ran over to pick it off,” Grillo said. “Eddie’s always there to put it in, and I knew he was going to finish.”
Giaquinto, who split 10 faceoffs in the first half, won seven of eight in the third, and got lower on the draw to help him win 18 of 25 faceoffs overall in the game.
“I give Michael Giaquinto a lot of credit,” Hobbes said. “Those possessions were key.”
Munoz said his teammates have been hearing all season long how they’re the next resilient bunch to vie for the state championship, and he said he knew the next step toward getting back to where the Patriots were last year wasn’t too far out of reach.
“To be so close to another county championship — we needed to win,” he said. “Our drive is what got us here, and our confidence is through the roof, but you can’t be too cocky. We’re soaking it in, enjoying the moment, but once we get on that bus — get back to the school — we have work to do. It’s all about staying focused.”
Ward Melville will face Smithtown East May 31 at Stony Brook University at 3 p.m. with a chance for redemption. The Bulls halted the Patriots’ playoff push two years ago, with an 11-10 county final victory.
“We feel we have a standard to uphold at Ward Melville,” Hobbes said. “We need to get back to where we were last year, and take that title this time. We’re ready to play.”