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Ward Melville Insane 5 Goal Comeback to Become NY Champs (VIDEO)

There aren’t enough adequate words to describe what the young men of Ward Melville High School pulled off last weekend. If you’re not familiar, Ward Melville is in the heart of Long Island, a hop, skip, and a jump away from Stony Brook University. That puts Patriots Lacrosse in Section 11 of the NYSPHSAA (a giant acronym for public school sports in New York).

Each section winner falls into the State bracket, Ward Melville representing their group. After defeating the best of Section 8 (Massapequa) and Section 1 (Lakeland-Panas), they made way to the State Championship. What happened in that game will go down in high school lacrosse history.

Legends Are Made in New York

Class A for New York is comprised of all public schools with 1,050 students, or more. In 2016, the Ward Melville Patriots returned to the finals in pursuit of their 9th title, only to fall short to Victor in the big game.

2017 would draw the Pittsford Panthers from Section 5 in the grand finale. With about 90 seconds left in regulation, it looked like title number nine was going to have to wait another year.

Less than five minutes left in the final frame, the scoreboard boldly read 9-4, in favor of Pittsford. After only four goals over as many quarters, the Long Island crowd looked ready to mail it in. The Panther faithful were just counting down the seconds until party time.

But, junior Matt Grillo wasn’t digging the idea of second place all over again. Grillo came alive to find twine with a bit over three minutes left on the clock, but it was still a four-goal game.

Not All Heroes Wear Capes

From there, senior Eddie Munoz picked up on the urgency and drove the ball off of a sideline restart for a rip. Collecting a flag and a goal to get the game within three, his team went up a man on the ensuing face-off.

The next draw was quickly pulled out to the open wing and the Patriots had an extra-man and space to work with. Shots were fired, but they just couldn’t put them on target. At 40 seconds, it probably looked to most fans like the deficit was insurmountable.

Munoz didn’t see it that way. He found the feed from behind the cage right inside the box line and let it fly. The second do-or-die goal in less than thirty seconds for Munoz put faith back into the Patriots bench, but the Panther support was still in pre-celebration mode.

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On the following draw, the Pittsford had no chance of slowing the lightning quick jump of Mike Giaquinto. Pushing the ball forward to himself, he sped down the field with purpose, forcing the defense to make the first move.

Timing the slide, he found none other than Munoz, right by his side, ready to catch and release. It was a hat trick for Munoz, in about 35 seconds. Exciting as it was, even less time was on the clock and they were still short a goal.

Then, Impossible Became Possible

One big save, a timely face-off win, a dominant forced turnover. Just one of the three would be all the Panthers needed to secure their first-ever Class A title. Instead, they jumped early on the draw and handed possession to the Patriots. Rockets at the goaltender trailed off out of bounds, unable to connect. Excellent teamwork would eventually result in the ball moving like wildfire into the stick of Grillo. Ready on the doorstep to knot the game up at 9, Grillo stuck the equalizer, stealing the show with 7 seconds remaining.

Another huge face-off win would result in immediate timeout. With a set play in mind, the Patriots flew out of the gate off the whistle. The officials let an aggressive pick play carry on, as the game called for, but the ball would end up loose as clock expired. No penalties, no goals, both teams were going to sudden victory.

Taking Your Chances

Extra-time gave both teams an opportunity to seal the deal in the first three minutes. Yet, New York State Champions can never be crowned that easily.

In the final minute of the first OT, a Panther midfielder split left to right and took off down the alley, letting fly what was sure to be the game-winner. Well, goaltender Perry Cassidy didn’t see it that way. Sniffing out the low-right heater, Cassidy quickly regained composure and began the clear.

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Getting it into the box with little resistance, the Patriots set up their offense one last time with just 30 seconds left. Shots fired again from distance, but this time the clutch Munoz wasn’t finding twine. So, with 5 seconds left, the Patriots let go and let Grillo.

The crafty attackman pumped high just one time off the restart behind the cage, getting his defenseman to bite, splitting underneath and going full-speed to the rack.

The defensive help was there, but the pole went after stick and Grillo was able to tuck it, find space in front of the crease, and hammer the final nail into the 2017 Class A Championship.

Ward Melville: State Champs

I could sit around and talk all day about the clutch offensive performances of Matt Grillo and Eddie Munoz. Perry Cassidy’s second half shutdown between the pipes was clearly another major contributor to the comeback. Still, there was one athlete on that field that was lights-out for nearly 65 minutes to make sure his team was in position to pull off the unimaginable.

The difference maker: Mike Giaquinto. The junior face-off extraordinaire was the backbone behind an unbelievable comeback. Ward Melville carries a deep roster of shooters that can get the job done. No one was going to clean up 19 of 22 face-offs, except Giaquinto, including the final four attempts in regulation.

Looking at next year, sure Ward Melville will lose some studs, but they have plenty to reload with. Munoz will head up the street to join the Stony Brook Seawolves next spring. Cassidy will also move on, heading east to Western Connecticut. Future Nittany Lion, Giaquinto, and Grillo, still undecided, will spend another season with the Patriots before taking on the next level.

The 2017 season was capped off with Ward Melville’s 9th Class A State Championship since 1978, their previous title earned in 2013.

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