It’s always a big game when Ward Melville and West Islip meet on the lacrosse field. The two most distinguished team in Suffolk County Division I battled once again Saturday afternoon, with West Islip coming out on top.
The Lions used an explosive six-goal fourth quarter to overcome a 5-1 deficit and beat the Patriots 8-5 in front of a raucous crowd at West Islip High School.
“For some reason today we didn’t have the same energy that I expected us to have in the early part of the game,” West Islip head coach Scott Craig said. “They were beating us on groundballs and we were not playing very smart.”
Ward Melville was doing more than just beating West Islip to ground balls through the first three quarters. The Lions scored the game's first goal with 4:51 remaining in the first quarter when Tom Moore took a feed from Anthony DeLuca and buried it behind Melville goalkeeper Ryan Simpson.
From that point forward the Patriots were dominant. John Edmonds scored twice and Mike Rastivo added another to give Ward Melville a 3-1 lead at halftime.
“It’s going to come from your mind - understanding the game - and from your heat,” Craig passionately told his team at halftime as they sat, looking for answers.
But the Patriots came out in the third quarter and scored two quick goals, another by Edmonds assisted by Jack Bruckner and the other scored by Bruckner.
“Never die,“ West Islip goalkeeper Jack Kelly said was the message the team delivered from that point forward. “I’m so proud of these guys, (down) 5-1 with four minutes left in the third. We were in a situation like that at Smithtown West but nothing like four goals, we were just down two. It’s just a never say die attitude, what hard working kids.”
Kelly kept his team in the game early on, stopping eight shots in the first half and a total of 11 in the game.
Junior Nick Aponte gave the Lions some life late in the third as West Islip cut the deficit to 5-2. But it was until the fourth that they finally took over. Paul Riportela scored on an assist from DeLuca just 34 seconds into the final quarter. Riportela won the ensuing face off, drove down the middle of the field and dished it to Moore who scored West Islip’s fourth goal just 10 seconds after its third.
Senior Brendan Smith capped the frantic minute when he rifled a shot from 10 yards out past Simpson, tying the game at five.
“Paul Riportela did an unbelievable job on face offs, giving us the ball so we were able to keep that flame alive and string some goals together,” Craig said.
The Lions continued the onslaught and took the lead on a great individual effort from Moore, who muscled a shot past Simpson to put the Lions ahead for good with 7:26 remaining.
Mike Moynihan and Ryan Wieczorek closed out the scoring for West Islip.
That 6-0 was a statement by the Lions against one of the top teams in Suffolk County. But Craig knew his squad had it in them all along.
“I thought we did a better job of doing what we were supposed to do and understanding what we were supposed to do as a team at the offensive end of the field.” he said.