Sometimes, the most important moments in a game don’t happen at the end.
Sometimes, everything you need to know about why a contest turned out the way it did occurs before all the spectators are even in their seats.
The Port Washington boys lacrosse team knew it was up against a major hurdle in the Class A county final Tuesday night at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium.
That hurdle was Farmingdale goalie Mike Ippoliti, the Syracuse-bound netminder who repels shots like few others on Long Island.
The Vikings knew they had to be near-perfect with their shots to beat Ippoliti, and for most of the first quarter, Port Washington dominated. But Ippoliti was impenetrable, making five saves in the opening seven minutes to keep Port off the scoreboard.
Then the top-seeded Dalers scored two goals to end the quarter, and that was pretty much that. Farmingdale’s offense got rolling and proved unstoppable, and it pulled away for an 11-3 victory.
“I call it the Ippoliti factor,” Vikings head coach Isaac Neal said. “You’re looking at that goalie and trying to be perfect. Maybe you hold the ball a little longer, carry it a little longer, and you try to make it right. But that’s a testament to Ippoliti. He was great tonight.”
For the Vikings, making it back to the title game was a testament to the strength of the program.
After winning the county crown in 2022, Port Washington graduated top attack Henry Haberman, who went to Loyola. But led by goal-scorers like Luke Meyer and John McCarthy, the Vikings had another strong season, and squeaked by Massapequa by one goal in the semifinals.
But against a Farmingdale squad that hadn’t won a county crown since 2011, the Vikings were just not able to get the stops when they needed, nor the goals they needed. After the Dalers scored three goals in 2:21 late in the sescond quarter, Port Washington trailed 5-0 at halftime.
“We just didn’t show up tonight,” said senior Chase Pastolove, who scored two second-half goals for the Vikings. “Those early chances were a big miss, yeah, and if we make them you never know what can happen.
“But we just didn’t click today,” Pastolove continued. “We were ready to go, we were prepared, very excited for the game, came out hungry. We just didn’t play well.”
The Vikings threatened to make a game of it when Pastolove scored early in the third quarter, making it 6-1. But a minute later Jaxson Parisi fired a shot into the net and the comeback hopes flickered.
Cal Gober scored the other goal for Port Washington.
“We did our best to slow the game down a little more, we had some looks and we had some possession, and again if we had converted and capitalized on a couple, maybe it’s a different game,” Neal said. “But Farmingdale is a great team, and they play very well in front of their fantastic goalie.”
The Vikings finished the season 12-5, and Neal said the senior class has so much to be proud of, reaching the county finals two years in a row.
“They’re great leaders, and every guy on our bench has a tremendous amount of pride; they’ve kept the bar up,” Neal said. “The bar was set very high last year, and it was very hard to clear. We just nicked it in this game.”
“But I’m so proud of every single one of our players.”