Monday, April 8, 2013

Pac Gains Revenge

By Zach Smart

The scene replays in Mahopac coach Mike Haddeland’s mind over, over, and over.

There is the sight of the Mamaroneck Tigers dispatching their sticks, tossing their helmets and pads in the air, and swarming each other on the Glenn D. Loucks turf at White Plains High School. There is the scene of them piling onto each other, basking in the championship glory.

Haddeland remembers the sobering feeling of frittering away a 5-2 edge and losing the dizzying 2012 Section I championship by one goal, 9-8.

A feeling of sheer numbness overwhelmed him. The seasoned coach can still hear the ear-piercing sound of the final buzzer, followed by a stream of uproarious screams from the black-clad section of the bleachers.

No.10 seeded Mamaroneck cracked the pages of history. The Tigers captured its first-ever Section I championship. Mamaroneck’s 2012 post-season ascent sent shockwaves to Section I. Posting stunning upset after upset the unsung and underappreciated Tigers capped capped off the underdog story with the championship.

With a new year, a new set of lofty aspirations for each team, nobody has forgotten about Mamaroneck’s Cinderella story.

 Certainly not Haddeland. Certainly not Mahopac.

“It was like the whole world had stopped in that instant,” said Haddeland, whose team has rattled off three straight wins following an embarrassing 16-3 shelling at the hands of Northport.

“I had a feeling we were going to overlook them (Mamaroneck). Going up 5-2 was the worst thing that could have happened.”

Mahopac seniors/team captains Ty Weisberg, Nick Oliver, Ross Thompson, and Brendan Hynes have played integral roles since they were sophomores. They were on the field when then-senior T.J. Foley ripped go-ahead goals to dethrone perennially potent Lakeland-Panas in the 2011 Sectional championship.

The agonizing pain of a one-goal loss, the putrid feeling of relinquishing a sectional championship still emanates from May 30th, 2012.

 The Indians find strong sources of motivation from that debilitating loss just about everywhere.

As the Indians enter their locker room, a visual reminder snares their attention.

Printed on a big poster board is massive photo of Mamaroneck hoisting the Sectional Championship plaque. A shot of the scoreboard and 00:00 remaining accompanies it.

Above the pictures, the words “This was Yours.. Take It Back” are inscribed.

The Mamaroneck game dominated off-season discussion.

Mahopac earned a measure of revenge when Ross Thompson bagged the game winner, breaking a 7-7 deadlock with four minutes remaining. Staving off dodgers, contesting shots and draping the Tigers’ go-to guys, the Indians preserved the tight margin. Then, goalie Brandon Crecco sealed the win shut with a stop at the buzzer.

Crecco (who collected 15 saves) kept the net sealed as the Indians defense altered the trajectory of shots, holding Mamaroneck to a 7-for-35 shooting night. Short stick defensive middie Eric Donahue was a major part of the clamp down operation, as he hounded shooters and played physical.

“We definitely wanted revenge, last year’s game was definitely on our minds,” explained Richmond-bound longstick middie Brendan Hynes. “We knew their strengths and we prepared for them well. It was back and forth throughout, we just wanted to have that last swing.”

It was an emotional game for Hynes. Not only was he thirsting for revenge, he was playing for his freshman brother, Aiden Hynes.

Aiden Hynes, who Haddeland describes as a “tremendous all-around athlete and a groundball machine,” suffered a lacerated spleen in a win over Wappingers Falls last week. Instead of participating in the marquee and memorable win, Aiden was confined to a hospital bed.

“I heard hospital workers were asking Aiden if he’s really 14 years old,” said Haddeland of his promising freshman, who is a man-sized 6-foot-1 and the team’s lone freshman.

Brandon Hynes said it was refreshing to win for his now-shelved little brother.

“Aiden’s not only my little brother, he’s the team’s little brother,” the senior explained. “He’s the youngest kid on the team and he learns a lot from all of us. We definitely wanted to win for him, we definitely wanted to go out there and get that for him. So, it was emotional for all of us.”

Nick Oliver, who has 15 points this season, bagged a hat trick and dealt out an assist. The senior has emerged as an offensive catalyst, despite not being equated with the same pedigree as the county’s trigger men.

“He’s totally stepped up his game this year,” said Haddeland. “It started in the weight room in the pre-season.”

It was Oliver who located Thompson on a transition leakout for the game-winner. Thompson and fellow captain Tyler Weisberg (who bagged a hat trick in last year’s championship game) have supplemented Oliver’s production.

Without the defensive effort, explained Haddeland, the Indians still wouldn’t have rose up  from the Mamaroneck nightmare that jolted them out of summer sleep.

Mamaroneck’s Peter Conley, who chose Georgetown over a bevy of Ivy League suitors, was held to just one goal. Greenburg, who like Conley torched the Pac in last year’s final, was also held to just one goal. Andrew Neilis, Donahue, and Eric Giorno all each took their turn applying suffocating defense on Greenburg, who is lethal when he develops the hot hand.

“It was nice to avenge the loss, but we have a long way to go,” explained Haddeland.

He’s not wrong. Mahopac plays cross-town rival Carmel tomorrow and will be put to the test against Arlington, which boasts Division-I talent and lofty aspirations after gutting out a win against Lakeland/Panas in its season-opener.