All season long the Smithtown East boys lacrosse team has gone by the mantra of "next play," trying to stay in the moment and never get ahead of themselves.
It helped them in huge comeback wins this season over Huntington and Connetquot, but irt never mattered more than in Thursday’s Suffolk A semifinal at Ward Melville.
The Bulls let a four-goal lead slip away in the second half, but when it mattered most they made that next play. Marcus Wertheim drew the defense and made a cross field pass to Joe Hobot, who wired a shot to the top corner for the winner with six minutes remaining to help the No. 3 Bulls knock off No. 2 Ward Melville, 9-8.
“We’ve been going through flipping the field in practice all week,” Wertheim said. “I knew that they were going to slide early because I watched a lot of film and the first time we played them they were sliding very early. As soon as I went I saw the slide coming and was able to find Joe on the backside because everyone was helping over and he was able to bury it like he usually does.”
Hobot’s goal gave Smithtown East (14-3) a 9-7 lead. Wertheim, who had four goals and an assist, had scored earlier in the quarter in transition off a pass from defender Michael DeSano to break the tie at 7.
Nicholas Stoecker scored his second goal for Ward Melville (13-5) with 1:07 remaining to provide the final margin.
“No matter how many goals they score, we're going to come back and score more,” Hobot said. “That next play mentality is a big thing for us. We’re not done yet and we’re going to keep it rolling and no matter how big of a punch we get thrown at us we’re going to throw back a bigger one.”
Andrew Donato scored his second for the Bulls early in the third quarter to put Smithtown East ahead 7-3.
But less than a minute later Tyler Flynn snuck one five hole to cut into the lead. Kevin Dolan added his second 38 seconds later, Flynn added his third and Stoecker scored his first to knot the score at 7 late in the third.
“I knew I just had to relax and slow down,” goalie Nick Matthes said. “I was getting a little antsy but I talked to the defense and that helped.”
Matthes was a huge reason why the Bulls were able to jump out to the early lead and he made 17 saves.
Smithtown East's "next play" will be the Suffolk title game on June 1 against Northport at East Islip. The Bulls will be looking for their first county championship since 2015.
“We haven’t been here in so long so I just can’t wait to go to counties,” Wertheim said. “We’re going to give it our best and hopefully win it.”