North Babylon spent almost the entire first 40 minutes as the aggressor as they took on host Smithtown East Thursday. The Bulldogs played most of it on the doorstep of senior goalkeeper Mike Gasparino and allowed the Bulls only the occasional foray into the other end of the field.
Noah Lavrenchik made sure it was a different story after halftime. Smithtown East coach Mike Menendez pulled perhaps his most gifted senior into a more defensive spot in the midfield to try to seize control. It worked like a charm as the Bulls broke a scoreless tie with three unanswered goals and pulled out a 3-1 Suffolk IV boys soccer victory.
“Noah’s presence was immediately felt after we made the move,” Menendez said. “He was a big reason for all our opportunities.”
Junior forward Noah Rosenblatt scored a pair of goals, sophomore forward Liam Stanley had a goal and two assists and Gasparino made eight saves to pace Smithtown East (3-1-1, 2-1). Rob Wagner, a senior forward scored for North Babylon (4-4, 2-2).
“It sounds strange, but when we get more defensive, we end up more [on attack] because when we win balls in the middle if frees Rosenblatt,” Lavrenchik said. “When I move back it seems like we open up a little.”
Smithtown East withstood the first half barrage from the Bulldogs by getting several strong plays on 50-50 balls in the box including ones by senior Zachary Chandler, junior Jake Gallery and senior Jai Sharma.
“[Chandler] is athletic and brings incredible energy and Gallery can run and jump with anyone,” Menendez said. “They get in the air or chase down a ball.”
Added Gasparino: “Guys like that can hang in the air so they have a larger margin for error.”
Rosenblatt broke the scoreless tie less than eight minutes into the second half. Stanley’s pass trickled past Ryan Safrin and, as Rosenblatt put it “I was expecting him to shoot it, but when he didn’t my first instinct was to pop it up. There were a lot of people crowding the box.” It beat the Bulldogs keeper above his right hand.
Less than three minutes later, the Bulls made it 2-0 when Lavrenchik’s throw-in got headed down the field by Sharma and went to Stanley – who put it in without the ball ever hitting the turf.
Rosenblatt’s other goal was a test of perseverance and came with 23:03 to play. He actually had to kick it toward the goal three or four times.
“I kept going and kept trying to kick it into the net,” he said. “On one it got past enough defenders that I could just tap it in.”
“We lost a game to North Babylon 4-0 near the end of last season and I think it stuck out to everyone as a particularly [poor] performance,” Lavrenchik said. “This was one we really wanted to win to redeem ourselves.”