The Westhampton Beach boys lacrosse team’s schedule offered no respite in the early part of the season, pitting the Hurricanes against four high-caliber Division II teams right off the bat. The result was an 0-4 start that had the Canes disappointed, but not entirely discouraged, according to head coach Ralph Pepe.
But on April 15, Westhampton Beach finally found itself on the winning side of a close contest, beating rival East Hampton 7-6 in East Hampton for its first division victory of the year. The Canes followed that win with a 16-9 triumph against a weak Mercy team in Riverhead on Friday, moving them to 2-4 on the year.
In the win over the Bonackers, Westhampton Beach used a bit of trickery to score the game-winning goal. Ralph Pepe and Kevin Sabo, two of the top offensive players on the team, executed a fake flip pass up top, which left the East Hampton defenders believing that Pepe was carrying the ball. Without the defense keying on him, Sabo was able to slip in and put one past East Hampton goalie Mark Simmons, giving the Canes the win.
“Usually they’d flip the ball, but they faked it, and everyone went with Ralph,” head coach Pepe said, explaining the play between his son and Sabo. “The goalie didn’t realize it until the end. I’ve had that happen to me before and when it does, it really shocks you. It’s an old trick play, most people don’t use it anymore, but we’ve used it and it worked great for us.”
Westhampton Beach put itself in position for the win with an overall impressive fourth quarter effort, outscoring East Hampton 3-0. The Bonackers (3-3) had the upper hand in the early part of the game, taking a 5-2 halftime lead.
Coach Pepe said that the win was exactly what his team needed.
“It was a good game for us because we’re two fairly evenly matched teams,” he said. “I was happy with the way we came through in the second half. We were just a little bit tougher in the second half and we were very determined to get that win. We knew it was pivotal for our season to get a victory. It doesn’t guarantee anything, but it keeps us in the race.”
While Sabo and Pepe provided the offensive heroics, the Hurricanes had a strong effort on defense as well. Cory Hubbard made 15 saves, including several key stops in the fourth quarter. Junior long pole defenseman Frank Catanzaro caused two turnovers that were crucial late in the game as well, while Jeff Fallier continued to do a good job of picking up ground balls, along with face-off man Paul Dilandro.
Sabo, Pepe and Jeff Craz finished with two goals each while Fallier added a goal. Pepe also had two assists and Craz had one assist.
Westhampton Beach had an easier time getting a win against Mercy, a team that has a thin bench and struggles to be competitive. Coach Pepe said he was impressed, however, with the effort of the Monarchs. “They played very tough and every year, they really impress me with how hard their kids play,” he said. “It was a good game for us. We scored quickly and we were able to give our starters a rest.”
The Hurricanes had an 11-4 lead at halftime and held on in the second half.
Sabo and Pepe each scored three goals, while Craz, Mike Barrie and Vance Schindler each scored twice. Marco Pizzo, Dilandro, Brendan Hennessey and Nick Daleo each scored once. Sabo and Pepe also had three assists each. Schindler, Hennessey and Daleo all scored their first varsity goals.
Coach Pepe said that getting the wins gave his team the confidence it needed, but also added that his players did not get down on themselves after starting the season 0-4.
“If we had played some of these teams earlier, we could have gotten our confidence level up,” he said. “But we played a lot of tough teams and sometimes you go home and start to think you’re never going to win. But I never felt that with this team. They’ve always practiced just as hard. We know we’ve been through the buzzsaw and it can’t get any harder than that. As a team, we never really lost focus in that tough part of the schedule. I’m happy with the guys because they practice hard and give a good effort every day. Hopefully we can get on a little bit of a run.”
Westhampton Beach was scheduled to host Eastport South Manor on Tuesday and will host Harborfields today at 4:30 p.m. The Canes will visit powerhouse Rocky Point for a 4 p.m. game on Wednesday.