ALBANY, N.Y. — The Islip boys lacrosse team will spend most of its run toward a championship pounding the pavement. And, if the season’s penultimate game for the Buccaneers was any indication, they’ll spend the rest of it pounding nets.
Islip advanced to Saturday’s Class C state championship game with a demonstrative 14-4 victory over Pelham in a state semifinal Wednesday night at SUNY-Albany. They will play upstate Westhill at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at St. John Fisher College in Rochester.
That’s where the travel comes in. After the victory, which ended at about 8 p.m., Islip made the roughly three and a half-hour trip back home. They’ll go to school Thursday and then get back on the bus for the over six hour trip to Rochester on Friday. It’s a lot of miles, and a lot of roadside Arby’s — but it’s certainly better than the alternative.
“It’s a little rough,” Jeff Atlas, who had two goals and six assists, said. “It’s a long day, but we’re ready.
Both Mike Bienkowski and Chris Giuliani scored three goals in the semifinal win. Goalies Devin DeGennaro (nine saves) and Rusty Dietz (two saves), in combination with a lockdown defense, made for an easy evening.
“Our defense has been great all year,” Giuliani said. “They [basically] let up two goals in this game. If you let up two goals in any game, I have confidence in our offense that we can win that game.”
“In goal, Devin [DeGennaro] can’t be any better for us,” Joe Juengerkes, who had two goals and two assists, said. “He makes saves for us and gets the ball into transition.”
Giuliani and Atlas staked Islip to an early 2-0 first quarter lead, holding onto the ball as long as possible as they sized up Pelham’s zone defense. After Pelham scored late in the first quarter to cut the Buccaneers lead to 2-1, Islip’s offense unloaded, ripping off eight straight goals that erased any doubt as to who was moving on. They had a 10-1 lead with 7:41 left in the third quarter.
“Coming into the game, we were thinking that we just needed to get quick shots off,” Juengerkes said. “As long as the shots were open, we’ll take them. That’s exactly what we did. We started beating out guys and moving the ball to the open guy.”
Islip had only studied film of Pelham playing a man-defense scheme, so it came as a bit of a surprise when the Pelicans unearthed the zone look. But, as a team that prides itself on an ability to succeed against any scheme, Islip was unfazed.
“We just stuck to our zone offense and we were able to hit shots early,” Giuliani said. “I think that helped put the game away . . . It didn’t really matter to us. I thought, either way, we’d be able to put up goals. It was just a matter of what they were going to come out in. ”
And, it’s not like they haven’t had their fair share of zone defenses on Long Island.
“We’ve probably played half our games verses zone,” Atlas said. “So, we have a ton of stuff in [our offense] for zones . . . We’re comfortable in both. We have guys that can stretch the defense and run right by you with straight speed and we have guys that can stretch zones. Whatever they come out in, we have a counter to it.”