Patriots have now won 24 county titles in 38 appearances
By Bill Landon
The bitter taste of last year’s devastating loss in the Suffolk County championship game to Smithtown West was replaced with the sweet taste of victory Wednesday night, after the Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse team lit up the scoreboard early and often on the way to a 13-5 win over Connetquot for the Class A crown.
Senior attack Chris Grillo scored his hat trick goal less than a minute into the second quarter, to put his team out front 5-0. Senior midfielder Connor Grippe and junior midfielder Dominic Pryor each tallied a goal. Grippe followed up Grillo with an unassisted goal for a 6-0 advantage, before Connetquot put its first point on the board with 7:16 remaining in the first half.
“After that devastating loss last year, we worked our tails off during the off season because we knew we didn’t have the super star talent that we had in years past,” Grippe said. “We don’t have one go-to guy, we have six, and Chris Grillo had an outstanding game. Five goals — that’s what we needed.”
With just over two minutes left before the break, Grillo struck again, and junior attack Andrew Lockhart split the pipes to take an 8-1 advantage into the third.
“We lost to them earlier in the season in overtime,” Grillo said. “We came out flat on offense in that game, defensively we played okay, but we beat ourselves [that day]. We had a lot of injuries and [we battled] the flu in that game, so to come back at full strength was just huge.”
Ward Melville’s defensive unit controlled the Connetquot attackers as they struggled to find an open lane, and had few shots on goal.
Four minutes in, Connetquot scores its second goal of the game, but a minute later the Patriots rattled off three unanswered goals, capped off by Grillo’s fifth goal of the game, to stretch the lead to 11-2.
Connetquot found the net once more, but Ward Melville junior Eddie Munoz stretched the net to edge ahead 12-3 to begin the final 12 minutes of play. The midfielder said he was confident in his team’s ability to take it home this year, despite the Patriots’ season getting off to a rocky start.
“I knew our team had championship potential and I knew we had it in us,” he said. Emphasizing the total team potential to go far. “Today everyone played well, not just one guy. Our defense held together to the end and our offense was shooting to the back of the net making [Connetquot’s] goalie earn every save, which weren’t too many.”
The Patriots let up two late goals in the game, like the team did against Walt Whitman in the semifinals, but Ward Melville was still able to take home its 24th county title in 38 appearances.
“We lost a lot in the beginning of the season — we didn’t have an identity — but now we’re starting to peak and our identity is starting to poke through,” Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus said. “I have to take my hat off to both my assistant coaches, they did a great job preparing defensively — that’s been our strength all year, and our offense came to play today. And I’ll tell you, we can be really dangerous when that happens.”