Bryan Hickey made his first start in goal Tuesday for Smithtown West and the assignment was a formidable one: stop highly touted Ward Melville.
"Our goalie situation is a little rocky, so I told coach I'd step up," Hickey said. "It was stressful. Even though I'm new, I feel like I have to take on all the pressures."
He certainly did, stopping Ward Melville repeatedly with a variety of lunging and leaping saves in the Bulls' 2-0 boys soccer victory in the season opener for both teams.
Ward Melville's coaches were concerned heading into the match. The Patriots are a young team, with only five seniors on their roster, compared with the senior-laden Bulls, who have 13.
Their concerns proved to be legitimate, but Patriots coach Jon Stecker saw some positives in the loss.
"I think this is the best thing that could happen for us right now," Stecker said. "As much as you don't want to lose, I think this is going to springboard us into the league.
"Sometimes you want the losses to come early and the lessons to come early rather than late."
Smithtown West took the early lead when junior midfielder Matt Hettler took a pass in the middle of the box and buried the opportunity to put the Bulls ahead 1-0 in the sixth minute.
"Just right place at the right time," Hettler said. "It's a great way to start the season; we need this."
Ward Melville turned up the intensity after falling behind. Junior forward Alex Guadagno made several outstanding plays throughout the first half, barely missing on shots in the 12th and 28th minutes of play, hitting the post in the 32nd minute and having another great shot stopped in the 38th minute.
The Patriots appeared to score on a header by junior Shane Dineen with two minutes left in the first half but the goal immediately was waved off because of a push.
Smithtown West senior Dan Turchan scored on a header after the ball ricocheted off the crossbar in the 62nd minute, giving the Bulls a 2-0 lead and his goalkeeper a little more breathing room.
Turns out Hickey, who made seven saves, didn't need any more help.