First came the NASCAR package, and Ward Melville zoomed to a five-goal lead early in the second quarter. By the fourth quarter, however, the Patriots’ offense slowed to a stall using its Omaha package.
“NASCAR is more up-tempo. In Omaha, we spread the defense out a little more,” Ward Melville coach Jay Negus said. “Different philosophies.”
Both styles were productive in the Patriots’ 10-7 boys lacrosse victory over host Smithtown West on Friday in a key Suffolk I matchup. Andrew Lockhart had four goals and an assist as Ward Melville improved to 7-0. Dan Riley had a hat trick for the Bulls, who dropped to 5-2.
Lockhart scored three goals in the fast start, but Smithtown West scored three goals in the final three minutes of the first half to cut its deficit to 5-3. Late in the third quarter, the Bulls’ John Hoffman circled from behind to score on a high blast that made it 6-5.
“They’re a good team. We knew they’d make a run,” said Patriots goalie Perry Cassidy, who made 10 saves.
Negus elected to downshift his offense and Ward Melville was twice called for stall warnings early in the fourth quarter. Both times the Patriots responded with quick goals. Eddie Munoz drilled one home from the top slot and Matt Grillo scored his second of the game on a low drive that made it 8-5. Lockhart took a feed in the slot from Brandon Aviles and buried it, and Zach Hobbes capped the game-turning four-goals-in-3:29 flurry on a feed from Trey Berry.
“We executed well in the fourth quarter,” Lockhart said. “We buckled down on defense. We like to play fast but play smart.”
For Lockhart, it was a long-overdue breakout game. “It’s his best day of the season to date,” Negus said. “This is what we expect from Andrew. He was gritty on ground balls and he shot the ball well. He had been dropping his hands.”
Instead, the senior attack dropped the hammer on Smithtown West with an assortment of shots, including his last one in the fourth quarter, when he scored despite taking a punishing body check. “It was a great feed and I absorbed some contact,” Lockhart said with a grin. “Mentally I settled down. I had been overthinking every shot, every pass. I just focused on finding the back of the net.”
Cassidy made sure Smithtown West couldn’t do the same. He was especially tough in the first half, making seven saves — some from close range — as the Patriots built their five-goal advantage.
“As a goalie, sometimes it’s tough to stay mentally tough when that happens,” he said. “But after you let in a couple of goals, you have to refocus. You’re like a field-goal kicker. You’ve got to have a short memory.”