MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Not many knew what to expect out of Mahopac’s boys lacrosse team this year under new head coach Joe Bucello.
Judging from a Section 1 Class A semifinal appearance before losing to Lakeland/Panas, 9-7, on Thursday, May 24, the season was quite a success for the third-seeded Indians.
“We preached all year about fighting through adversity and not focusing on the scoreboard,” Bucello said. “Just focusing on the way we play. That’s what the boys did, they just wanted to play their best lacrosse.”
The ninth-seeded Rebels gritted back and forth with Mahopac, as the score was a 3-3 deadlock at halftime.
Seconds into the next half, James O’Brien netted a goal only to be answered by the Rebels 15 seconds later.
Handing Mahopac a 5-4 lead three minutes later was Tommy Elliott, who charged the net and snuck a goal through the goalkeeper’s legs.
It was a game of streaks though, as Lakeland/Panas proceeded to erupt for five-straight goals to close out the third quarter.
Trailing 9-5 to start the fourth quarter, the Indians were desperate for a spark when O’Brien struck again with nine minutes left to play.
Just two minutes later, senior forward Ryan Dugan hooked around the net and connected for a goal to cut the deficit to two goals.
“We moved the ball and sold out on everything,” senior midfielder Jack Sarfaty said. “Nobody was lacking effort today at all.”
Elliott ripped a shot with seven minutes remaining, but it clanked off the post and out as this theme continued.
Lakeland/Panas’ defense began to play aggressively, using physicality against Mahopac, who possessed the ball for most of the fourth.
With only a minute to go, the teams scrapped for a loose ball before the Indians recovered.
Elliott found Drew Riolo for an open shot, but it sailed out of bounds with 30 seconds to spare.
Fifteen seconds later, Dugan spotted Mark Carey for a shot that was saved low as time ticked away on the Indians’ chances at advancing in a gritty match between two local powers.
“It was a game of runs,” Bucello said. “We went on a run and ran out of time.”
O’Brien paced Mahopac with four goals while Dugan, Elliott, and Anthony Corrado scored once.
Dugan also distributed for two assists as Joe Dalo had one. Dalo even brought the effort by hustling for six ground balls. Star goalie Mike Argila saved 12 shots in the defeat.
“We came out hard and left it all out on the field,” Sarfaty said. “If a couple things went a different way, we would have had a different game. It just kind of came down to the roll of the ball.”
On May 22, the Indians defeated visiting Arlington, 11-8 one more time in the quarterfinals.
O’Brien shot through four goals again while Elliott penciled two goals and two assists. Dugan scored twice and assisted one goal while Corrado and Brendan D’Iorio added a goal apiece.
Carey, Sarfaty, D’Iorio and Timmy Cegielski had one assist apiece. O’Brien picked up six ground balls while Sarfaty had five. Argila made eight saves in the victory.
“It was a team effort instead of an individual effort this year,” Sarfaty said. “This season shows how it’s going to be down the road for Mahopac. It’s nice to see the program go in the right direction like this.”
Mahopac (12-6) pulled off an improbable comeback after a subpar season a year ago before Bucello’s arrival.
“This was our goal that we set early in the year,” Bucello said of reaching the final four. “We played hard, we had fun, and I’ve got a great group of kids that bought into everything I said. What made it so easy in my first year was that they just believed in me.”