For the Connetquot boys lacrosse program, the view from the top of the hill is breathtaking.
The Thunderbirds defeated Sachem North, 11-7, Thursday in a battle of unbeaten Division I schools played at the Flaming Arrows' turf field high atop the Lake Ronkonkoma campus.
"It's the same hill I played on as a junior [at Connetquot] when Sachem beat us, like 20-2," Connetquot coach Bob Moltisanti Jr. said he told his players before the game. "I told the kids they have a chance to put us on the map."
That has been Moltisanti's mission since taking over the program three years ago in what he acknowledged is "a baseball community." Now, Connetquot is coming off the best season in school history (10-6), owns a 7-0 overall record this year and is in first place at 5-0 in rugged Division I.
His T-Birds are even drawing some attention away from the school's perennially powerful baseball program. "We're a little tired of always hearing about baseball," said senior attack Matt McQuade who scored five goals Thursday. "People are finally recognizing that we're strong, too."
Connetquot played a strong two-way game against the team that had beaten defending state champion West Islip in its league opener. Playmaking attack Kieran McArdle had three goals and three assists, defenseman Mike Pellegrino helped hold high-scoring Mike Andreassi to just one assist and goalie Zach Oliveri made 17 saves.
McArdle, who has committed to St. John's, made the offensive play of the game on the T-Birds' first possession of the second half. He took a pass on the left wing, started his dodge toward the goal and then whistled a no-look pass to the right crease where McQuade was waiting to stuff it home for a 5-2 lead. McArdle contributed another goal and assist in Connetquot's dominant third quarter that produced a 9-4 bulge.
"Me and Matt have a good connection. We've played together since the first grade," McArdle said of their years together, ironically, for SYAG, the Sachem youth program, because Connetquot didn't have such a program when they were younger. "He knew it [the pass] was coming."
McQuade, who had two sparkling unassisted goals in the fourth quarter, was ready for his friend's assist. "We don't even have to say anything," he said. "I know he'll be there and he knows I'll be here."
Now Division I knows that Connetquot is here. After yesterday's losses by previously unbeaten Sachem North (3-1), East Islip (3-1) and Ward Melville (4-1), guess who has the only perfect record among Suffolk's Class A schools?
"Other schools and other sports have their tradition," said Pellegrino, a junior who has already committed to Johns Hopkins. "We're making our own now."