The cold drizzle had settled on the shoulders of Ward Melville keeper Collin Krieg and long pole Pat O’Neil came over and brushed the water off. That was followed by a well-earned pat on the back as the final seconds ticked off the clock and the Patriots put the finishing touch on a 6-2 road win over previously undefeated West Islip in a Suffolk Division I boys lacrosse game.
Krieg, the stingiest of Suffolk’s keepers, is allowing only three goals per game. And not lost on the senior is the work of the guys that stand directly in front of him — the defensive unit.
“Our guys are playing fantastic defense,” Krieg said. “The rotations are timely and they’re not giving anyone clean looks. They make my job so much easier. Today, we played as a very tight unit.”
O’Neil and defenders Alex Schrank and Ethan Larson were keys to Ward Melville’s seventh consecutive win. They helped deny the Lions early and often in the first half as Ward Melville built a 4-0 lead.
“Our biggest competition is ourselves,” Ward Melville coach Jay Negus said. “The Suffolk I Division is so deep and talented. Every game can be tough. But we need to focus on us and what we are capable of doing. We haven’t played our best lacrosse yet. We saw a glimpse of it today.”
While the defense stymied West Islip, the Patriots opened the scoring when Bobby Kratochvil bounced a shot over the stick of keeper Jared Paquette with 5:24 left in the first quarter. Less than two minutes later, Jack Gillen took a beautiful feed across the crease from Steven Germain, dodged one defender, and sent a lefthanded shot past Paquette for the 2-0 lead.
“We have to hit our shots,” Negus said. “We only converted 11 of 40 shots and 8 of 33 the past two games. But I can see we’re growing as a group.”
Ward Melville extended the lead on goals from Brandon Aviles and Germain for a 4-0 lead with 9:21 left in the half. Max Albanese finally broke through the Patriots steel curtain with an unassisted goal with five seconds left in the half to make it 4-1.
West Islip (6-1) cut the deficit in half when Chris Sparks converted a pass from Donnie Ryan for the score with 8:01 left in the third quarter to get within 4-2.
Ward Melville’s leading scorer Dylan Pallonetti, who had good looks early, made a few halftime adjustments and put the game away with back-to-back unassisted goals within a 1:22 span midway through the fourth quarter.
“My shots were too high, and I needed a better feel for my stick,” said Pallonetti, who has 18 goals. “I had to change my levels and find my shot. I adjusted mid-game and that was the key.”
An offensive adjustment and a rock-solid defense.