Nothing has come easy for the East Hampton boys lacrosse team this season, as it has toiled against middle-of-the-pack teams in a highly competitive Division II and has had to scratch its way to several of its victories while falling just short in a handful of losses.
The Bonackers (3-4, 5-4) were edged 9-7 at home on Thursday by Class B rival Eastport South Manor, another team that, along with the Bonackers, is battling for one of the six playoffs spots up for grabs in Class B.
A total of 12 Class B teams in the division are duking it out for those postseason bids, and the Sharks are currently the first team out, sitting in seventh place among B teams in the division and ninth overall with a 4-4 division record and 5-6 overall record. The Sharks have 107.510 power points.
Power points and rankings in the division are determined by strength of schedule and quality of opponents. Upsets of higher ranked teams are worth more points than wins against lower ranked teams while losing to a lower ranked team results in a greater loss of points than losing to a higher ranked squad.
Prior to a game at Harborfields, scheduled for today, April 30, at 4:30 p.m., East Hampton sat in 13th place in Division II, 10th among Class B teams. To keep their hopes of making the postseason alive, the Bonackers need to not only take care of business against the teams remaining on their schedule that are ranked below them, but they must also pull off an upset of at least one higher-ranked opponent. Harborfields (2-5, 4-6) currently sits in 15th place in the division while Southampton—which the Bonackers will visit on Friday for a 4 p.m. game—sits in last place with a winless record.
East Hampton’s five remaining games will all be against opponents that are ranked above them, which is both good and bad. It provides the Bonackers with ample opportunity to score an upset, but doing so won’t be an easy task. Those opponents—Mount Sinai, Elwood/John Glenn, Islip, Sayville and Comsewogue—have a combined record of 24-11 in Division II play.
East Hampton head coach Mike Vitulli knows that his team will have to play its best lacrosse in the second half of the season to get to the playoffs, but he says he’s been pleased with its effort considering the level of competition.
“We need to get an upset somewhere,” he said. “And it’s very easy for us to hit a bump in the road. We’ve been averaging eight goals per game and allowing an average of seven per game, so we have very little margin for error.”
The current situation is still a big improvement from last year when the Bonackers did not even sniff the postseason. With a number of young players and newcomers joining the team this year, Vitulli acknowledged at the beginning of the season that he was unsure how strong his team would be, but he’s been happy so far.
“Last year was a down year for us, but now we’re definitely playing in meaningful games,” he added. “We’ve been in competitive games, and I think we’ve surprised other teams and at times surprised ourselves.”
In the loss to ESM, East Hampton had a poor second quarter and paid for it. The Sharks outscored the Bonackers 5-0 in that frame to take an 8-3 halftime lead.
East Hampton made a comeback in the fourth quarter, cutting the score to 8-7 with four minutes left to play before ESM’s Alec Rosenberg scored on an assist from Colin Flaherty with 2:59 remaining to provide the final margin.
Mike Fitzgerald scored two goals for the Bonackers in the fourth quarter and sparked the comeback along with Neil Powell and John Nolan, who each tallied one goal during that stretch.
East Hampton goalie Mark Simmons did his part in what wound up being a losing effort, finishing with 17 saves, 11 of which came in the second half.
In the end, the Bonackers simply did not have enough to overcome a scoreless second quarter.
“We had some poor offensive possessions and they were able to get out and run in transition,” Vitulli said of the second quarter. “We took bad penalties and they scored two man-up goals.”
Vitulli said he was happy with his team’s play late in the game.
“We played tough and we fought back,” he said. “They’re a high-scoring team so to keep them to nine goals wasn’t bad.”
Petrie and Fitzgerald each scored twice while Petrie added an assist and Powell, Nolan and Tyler Brenneman each had a goal. Matt Burns finished with two assists.
East Hampton rebounded with a 10-6 non-league win at Riverhead (Division I) on Saturday. The Bonackers held a 7-5 lead heading into the fourth quarter and outscored the Blue Waves 3-1 to secure the win in the final period. Brenneman led East Hampton with two goals and two assists while Ryan Shaw added two goals and one assist. Austin Heneveld and Petrie both had two goals, while Ryan Burns and Powell each had a goal.
Simmons made 17 saves in the win.
The East Hampton girls lacrosse team fell to 0-7 in Division II with a 23-10 home loss to Elwood/John Glenn on April 23 and an 11-4 loss at home to Islip on Friday. East Hampton was scheduled to visit winless Southampton on Tuesday and will host Kings Park on Thursday at 4 p.m.