A common refrain in sports is that the scariest lead is the two-goal lead. The feeling is that, when ahead by two scores, a team relaxes instead of playing its typical style, and that slight letdown leads to trouble. Like most truisms, this idea is totally false.
Ask Hewlett boys’ lacrosse coach Adam Hopkins whether he was happier when his Bulldogs led Carey 6-5 with a little under three minutes to play on March 25, or after senior Kevin Fuch’s goal at the 2:33 mark made it 7-5. Then ask him whether he was more comfortable at 7-5, or after a late Carey charge made it a one-score game again at 7-6. It turned out in the end that it didn’t matter whether the Bulldogs had the extra cushion; senior goalie Jack Verschliser turned away a last-minute shot, the last of his 14 saves, and the Bulldogs held on for their first win of the season.
“Nothing comes easy,” Hopkins said. “It was fun to be on the right side of the final score.”
The best kind of lead is any lead at all.
The Bulldogs started the 2014 season with a couple of defeats in which they never led: 11-2 at Oceanside and 8-6 at Farmingdale. On March 28, they fell to Friends Academy 12-7. They were scheduled to host Glen Cove on Tuesday, April 1, after The Herald went to press. Hopkins was probably right in saying that nothing about the 2014 season will be easy, especially in a conference (B-II) that includes powerful Manhasset and Lynbrook, but the Bulldogs certainly have the talent to be competitive.
Verschliser is one big reason. In his first year as a starter, he already has 45 saves, including at least 12 in three games. “He’s been great,” Hopkins said. “He’s been all we’ve wanted him to be – and more.”
Fuchs, a midfielder, is another player who has delivered in the early going. He had three goals in the win over Carey, including the eventual game-winner, and two against Oceanside in the opener. “We think he’s the best player on the field every game we play,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins is also relying on big things from seniors like Anthony Ianocci, Luke Borden, Jimmy Anderson, Gio Pugliese, Matt Miller, Mike Rubino and Gianluca Vardaro. Junior Malcolm Kahn, alongside Rubino, helps to anchor the Bulldog defense. Anderson, who splits time between the midfield and the attack, is a four-year varsity player. Hopkins entrusts him with running the offense and directing the action on the field.
“We have a tough schedule and play difficult opponents each time out, but we have a good group and they’ve been fun to work with,” Hopkins said. “We’ve asked a lot of kids to step into bigger roles, and we’re hoping we can peak at the right time.”
The Bulldogs host Kellenberg in non-league action this Saturday at 2 p.m. They’ll travel to North Shore for a conference game on April 9.