John Day doesn’t give any daylight.
A tenacious on-the-ball defender who thrives in transition, he provides opponents little room to operate. On Friday, along with Andrew McKenna and Sean Thornton, he played suffocating and shutdown defense to help lift No. 4 Ward Melville to an 8-4 win over No. 5 Smithtown West in the Division I quarterfinals.
“We wanted to come out and be aggressive,” said Day, a senior. “We needed to put pressure on them and force them to turn the ball over. And that’s what we did.”
That’s what they did earlier this season against Smithtown West yet fell, 3-1. So the offense made adjustments Friday as Dominic Pryor had three goals and an assist and Eddie Munoz added two goals and an assist.
“We had to move the goalie around a lot,” Munoz said. “We needed that one extra move to get him going one way and then you put it the other way . . . It’s a big weight lifted off our shoulders, getting past that first playoff game.”
The first of what they hope will be many as the Patriots look to avenge last season’s double-overtime loss in the county final.
Pryor scored an unassisted goal with 5:23 remaining in the first half to give Ward Melville a 2-1 lead. Pryor then fed Munoz, who made an adjustment while on the run to catch a ball that was behind him, and scored as the Patriots went into the half with a 3-1 advantage.
Munoz later spun through two defenders and scored to open a 5-2 lead with 5:44 left in the third quarter. .Andrew Lockhart’s goal 14 seconds into the fourth opened a four-goal lead. Pryor’s third goal came 1:20 later to make it 7-2.
That was enough support for goalie D.J. Kellerman, who made 10 saves, including a beautiful stop when the Patriots were two men down in the fourth.
“In my opinion, we are one of the best defenses around,” Kellerman said. “We always tell the offense, get us six goals and we win. If not, it’s on us.”
Dan Caroussos scored two straight goals to pull Smithtown West (12-6) within 7-4 with 3:57 remaining.
Dylan Pallonetti responded with a goal off a centering feed from Owen McAvoy with 2:18 left to seal the win.
Ward Melville (14-3) advances to the semifinals to face No. 9 Whitman, which upset top-seeded West Islip, at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Dowling.
“We’ve been waiting for this,” Day said. “We lost the county championship in double-overtime last year. We’re looking for redemption.”