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D.J. Kellerman helps Ward Melville to another LI title

Ward Melivlle goalie DJ Kellerman, attacker Connor Grippe

Ward Melivlle goalie DJ Kellerman, attacker Connor Grippe and defender John Day hoist their championship trophy after defeating Syosset in the Long Island Class A boys lacrosse championship game on Saturday, June 4, 2016. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Some players tune out the opposition fans. D.J. Kellerman’s message to Syosset’s loud crowd Saturday was the opposite. A loose translation of his response: ‘Bring it on.’

Kellerman, Ward Melville’s goalie, made 11 stops and the defense in front of him was absolutely suffocating in stopping high-powered Syosset, 9-5, in the Long Island Class A championship game played at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.

The title is Ward Melville’s 17th Long Island championship in boys lacrosse.

“I was dialed in. Our defense knows where each other is and we elevate ourselves from each other,” Kellerman said.

Then the senior flashed a goal-mouth wide grin and said, “The Syosset fans kept me entertained the whole game. I don’t even want to repeat what they were saying. It was a great feeling when we frustrated them. Our offense, our defense, our faceoffs.”

At the end, the Syosset fans were silent and the large contingent of Ward Melville fans were the noisemakers as the Patriots (17-3) advanced to Wednesday’s state Class A semifinal against Lakeland-Panas. Syosset (16-3) entered the game averaging more than 13 goals a game but despite four goals from Mac O’Keefe, were held to their lowest single-game total since 2014.

Asked what the key was to the Patriots’ superb defensive effort, Ward Melville coach Jay Negus offered a one-word answer: “Kellerman!” Then he elaborated.

“Our defense was all over the place, especially on ground balls. They dictated where the shots were coming from,” Negus said. “They were razzing D.J. in the stands but he just fed off it. He made some of the best saves I’ve seen.”

One of them came early in the fourth quarter when an unassisted goal by Lucas Cotler cut the deficit to 7-3 and left plenty of time for a rally. O’Keefe worked hard to avoid a double-team, cut to the right side of the cage and fed across the crease to J.P. Lannig for an apparent slam dunk. Except that Kellerman dove to stop the shot and dissipate whatever energy Syosset was trying to generate.

When Eddie Munoz scored his third of the game on a laser from the top of the slot with 6:25 left, the victory was secure. “We tell our defensive guys, it’s a deal. You watch our backs and we’ll watch yours,” Munoz said. “We held up our end of the bargain and so did they. D.J. was a big-time player in a big-time game. Every time Syosset got life, we took it right back.”

Ward Melville had life from the start, Zach Hobbes and Dominic Pryor scored unassisted goals to provide a 2-0 lead. Dylan Pallonetti and Munoz scored midway through the second quarter for a 4-0 lead. There was plenty of time left, but already the Patriots’ confidence was soaring. “Absolutely. Once we got a lead, we knew our defense could hold them out,” said John Day, the anchor of the back line. “We were aggressive, we played well together, and we know we don’t need to score a ton of goals. D.J. played out of his mind.”

And drove the Syosset fans out of theirs with his acrobatics.

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