Once again, Ward Melville is semi-tough. Eddie Munoz led a suddenly potent offense with five goals as the Patriots defeated Lakeland-Panas 16-6 last night and advanced to the state boys lacrosse Class A final Saturday at 4 p.m. at Middletown High School.
Ward Melville, which improved to 13-3 in state semifinals over the years, will face Victor, last year’s state Class B champion, which moved up in class and has put together another undefeated season and has a 43-game winning streak.
It’s the first state finals appearance for the Patriots since 2013, when they won their eighth state title with a 13-6 triumph over Shenendehowa at Marist College in coach Mike Hoppey’s final game.
They return under his successor, Jay Negus, who was an assistant on that championship team.
The current Patriots have emphasized defense all season, in surrendering less than six goals per game. But in extending their winning streak to nine, they displayed an offense that has found another gear in the playoffs and producing their highest single-game total of the season last night. Their previous best single-game output was 13, matched in their Suffolk County championship victory over Connetquot win over Syosset last Wednesday.
“Once the offense got settled in we were in the driver’s seat and they did a great job of being creative and playing unselfish,” Negus said of a unit that featured seven different scorers. “I think they’re embracing the journey. They’re getting better, they’re playing with more confidence. They’re growing as a group together.”
Munoz scored three times in the fourth quarter. Dominic Pryor scored three goals with three assists, Chris Grillo netted three goals plus two assists and Andrew Lockhart added two goals. The Giaquinto brothers, Jake and Michael, combined to win 18 of 26 faceoffs.
“I think it’s just hitting the back of the net, that’s the biggest thing for us,” Munoz said. “In the beginning of the year we had trouble finishing. There’s no excuse for that.”