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Athlete of the Week is Ward Melville faceoff specialist Michael Giaquinto

Ward Melville's Michael Giaquinto scrambles for the ball

Ward Melville's Michael Giaquinto scrambles for the ball against Half Hollow Hills East on May 25, 2017. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

The Giaquinto Family has always had one of the nicest front yards on their block in East Setauket.

Well, except for a small bare patch caused by Michael and his older brother, Jake, who were always practicing lacrosse faceoffs. Finally, their father, Gregg, took a stand a few years ago.

Michael Giaquinto recalled: “He said, ‘You two are ruining my lawn. I can’t take it anymore. Move it to the backyard.’ ”

The brothers did just that and both have gone onto bigger and better places than the Giaquinto backyard (which has a paltry grassless area of its own now).

Jake recently finished his freshman season at Sacred Heart University and won 53 percent (75-for-142) of his faceoffs for the Pioneers. Younger brother, Michael, had a great junior season, but saved his “most clutch game ever” in Ward Melville’s state Class A title contest on Saturday.

The junior faceoff specialist had a goal and an assist, and won an amazing 19 of 22 faceoffs (86 percent) as the Patriots scored four goals in the final 61 seconds of regulation and earned an improbable 10-9 overtime win against Pittsford to claim their ninth state crown. For his efforts, Giaquinto is Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.

“It’s been crazy,” said Giaquinto, who says he has a 93 average in school. “If you’re wearing Ward Melville lacrosse gear, everyone is approaching us and congratulating us still.”

But Giaquinto’s teammates are quick to credit the man at the faceoff X for the Patriots’ comeback.

“Everyone is giving me and Eddie [Munoz] a lot of the credit,” said Matt Grillo, one of Giaquinto’s best friends. (Both he and Munoz had three goals in the state final.) “But without Michael, and what he did, we would have never been put in that spot.”

Interestingly, Giaquinto — who committed to Penn State as a freshman according to Patriots coach Jay Negus — had trouble with faceoffs during Ward Melville’s wins in the Suffolk and Long Island championship games.

“I didn’t looked back,” said Giaquinto, who started taking faceoffs as a second grader in the Three Village Youth League. “I tried to treat [the state semifinal and championship games] as just another game. I look at it faceoff by faceoff — I got my mojo rolling — and took it as far as I could.”

That approach helped Giaquinto all season. He won 65 percent of his faceoffs this year, according to Negus. Giaquinto scored three goals and made three assists, and all but one assist came in the Patriots’ playoff run.

“Michael has good technique and speed, and he can dominate a game,” said Negus, a 1995 Ward Melville graduate. “He does a great job of grinding it out. It hasn’t always gone his way, but he keeps going and gets it done. Nothing rattles him.”

Not even bald spots in his yard.


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