Even when Massapequa didn’t score on its initial rush, after slowing down to play the possession game, the Chiefs didn’t take long to find a scoring opportunity.
The Section VIII champion dismantled Section II Class A titlist Niskayuna in Wednesday’s state semifinal at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium, 23-9.
“They scored, basically, at will,” Niskayuna coach Mike Vorgang said. “They were great. It’s fun to watch if it’s your team, not if they’re playing against you. They played really well.”
The Silver Warriors finish the season 19-2. The loss snapped a 15-game winning streak for the top-ranked team in the state, which fell to 2-5 in state semifinals appearances. The Chiefs won their 16th straight game and advance to Saturday’s state championship game against Section III champion Fayetteville-Manlius.
Niskayuna came out strong with Aidan O’Brien hitting the crossbar twice in the first 2:10 before senior attack Mike D’Amario broke through with his first goal of the day with 10:28 left.
“We came out hot, and that’s important, to come out hot,” D’Amario said. “Maybe the ball didn’t bounce our way in certain circumstances, but I think at the end of the day, they were just the better team. Credit to us, I don’t think we stopped fighting. I think we were the only ones, when they were up by 10 or 15 goals, we were the only ones who thought we’d come back.”
D’Amario, a two-time All-American, finished with four goals and an assist for Niskayuna. John Prendergast added two goals and an assist, and O’Brien ended up with a goal and an assist. Jake Shephard and Lucas Quinn also scored.
The Chiefs bounced back quickly, and a string of four unanswered goals put Massapequa ahead, 6-2, with 3:41 left in the quarter. Prendergast then finished on a feed from O’Brien with 2:49 left, and O’Brien added a goal of his own 45 seconds later to pull within two goals at 6-4.
After D’Amario pulled Niskayuna within three goals at 8-5 with 8:07 left in the second quarter, Massapequa reeled off five unanswered goals to take a 13-5 lead.
The Chiefs finished the half with 15 goals on 18 shots on goal. Vorgang pulled goalie Nick Testa in favor of Jack Lynch, and he tried throughout the game to find ways to slow down the Chiefs’ attack.
“I can’t remember the last time somebody scored 15 goals on us,” Vorgang said. “To get 15 goals in the first half, again, credit to them for winning the faceoffs, ground-ball battle, and shooting 75 percent in the first half. We turned the ball over a couple times early that created runs for them, which didn’t help. Again, they were much better than we were today, and it wasn’t because of effort. It’s just that they were better.
“We made several adjustments. We tried to do several different things in our defensive package, and they exploited each one of them. It’s just a credit to them, they were just much better than we were.”
The Chiefs were 4-for-4 in man-up situations, the Silver Warriors 1-for-3. They won 31 ground balls to 27 for Niskayuna.
Massapequa’s Phil Brady was strong on the draw, helping the Chiefs win 23 of 36 faceoffs, most of them against Niskayuna sophomore Dylan Pantalone.
“Credit to Dylan Pantalone, he did the best he could. He was trying so hard,” D’Amario said. “At the end of the day, they were just too fast for us in the transition game. They executed on all their opportunities, and on some of our opportunities, we didn’t execute. We made some silly mistakes that killed us in the end.”
Massapequa (18-2) got three or more goals from five different players. Paul Dilena and Ian Kirby both had four goals and two assists. Carter Hawthorne had three goals and four assists, Ryan Tierney had three goals and three assists, and Craig Berge added three goals and one assist.
Jim Byrns scored with six seconds left in the first half, pushing the Chiefs’ lead to 15-6. Vorgang said it was difficult to keep his team’s spirits up heading back out for the third quarter.
“Absolutely, it was difficult, but you’ve got to stay positive,” Vorgang said. “I feel like, as fast as they scored 15 goals, maybe we could get 10. But it started with winning a faceoff and a ground ball, and then putting it in the back of the net.
“I felt like we could score on them if we had the ball, and I think we showed we kind of could. I had the starters out with seven minutes to go in the third quarter. We had eight goals then, so if they played the whole game, maybe we get a couple more. But at that point in time, though, this is a team, so everybody gets in that game when it was out of reach.”
Berge’s goal with 6:07 left in the third quarter gave the Chiefs a 12-goal lead and started the running clock. Once they knew they were no longer playing for the win, D’Amario said the Silver Warriors decided to just play for each other in the time they had left.
“We just knew it was our last half together, and that’s what mattered to us,” he said. “We just wanted to enjoy the last half of lacrosse we had together. Win or lose, we wanted to enjoy ourselves and never stop fighting.”
Niskayuna 4 2 2 1 — 9
Massapequa 7 8 6 2 — 23
Niskayuna scoring: Mike D’Amario 4-1, John Prendergast 2-1, Aidan O’Brien 1-1, Jake Shephard 1-0, Lucas Quinn 1-0. Massapequa scoring: Paul Dilena 4-2, Ian Kirby 4-2, Carter Hawthorne 3-4, Ryan Tierney 3-3, Craig Berge 3-1, Jim Byrns 2-1, Nick Yevoli 1-0, Brendan Gallivan 1-0, Griff Konen 1-0, Thomas DeSilva 1-0, Griffin Barnathan 0-2, Sal Ienna 0-1.
Goalkeepers: Niskayuna, Nick Testa, 3 saves; Jack Lynch, 3 saves. Massapequa, Matt Valdini, 7 saves; Nick Benigno, 1 save.