Wayne Hills becomes Passaic’s first back-to-back champs by Sean Farrell of The Record
WAYNE – Their sticks flew high off the ground and into the sky. Finally, the empty spot in the Wayne Hills locker room can go down.
The Patriots sent equipment flying after becoming Passaic County’s first back-to-back champion in boys lacrosse and answering the question they’ve faced every day this season.
Coach Marc Jacobson said his motivational “2018?” placeholder sign inside the school would quickly be replaced with a familiar golden plaque. Like the phrase on the back of its helmets, Wayne Hills earned it with an 8-4 win over Wayne Valley in the championship game on Saturday.
“These kids get to look at it for the rest of the year and know that they’ve done something that no other team in the history of this county has ever done,” Jacobson said. “We talked about it. That’s something the seniors can take away for the rest of their lives.”
The pandemonium after the final whistle was a moment of relief as much as excitement. This was Wayne Hills’ tournament to lose, a dominant No. 1 seed and defending champion who had already beaten their rival this season. But these Patriots left no doubt in front of their home fans, energized by a big second half. Mike Monaco scored three times, Patrick Orapello added two and Dario Sirni was effective again at the faceoff circle.
“We knew the kids were good enough,” Jacobson said. “It’s just hard to string together 14 wins in a row without some kind of letdown. The credit goes to the kids. That’s the only fear, when you have a team and you know they’re good and know they’re capable. You worry about those letdowns and it becomes about managing emotions more than managing the game.”
Wayne Hills found itself in unfamiliar territory early in the game. The Patriots (15-1) trailed for one of the first times all season after allowing two of the first three goals. That was just about all Patriot goalie Dan Daly would give up. The freshman made 11 saves in his championship debut.
“They all told me just to stay relaxed,” said Daly, on advice from teammates. “Just be ready for the game. Do what you do every week and you’ll be fine.”
Wayne Hills put away the game in the third quarter with Michael Joyce’s goal was bookended by two from Monaco. That helped the Patriots set a team record with their 14th straight victory and tied the mark for wins in a season. Throughout the run, the focus was always on winning this game and the players even reminded themselves of that by touching their “2018?” sign on the way out of the locker room on Saturday. After months of preparation, the Patriots could hardly wait for the final whistle to begin the celebration. Players dumped a Gatorade bucket over Jacobson with a few seconds left on the clock and sprinted down the field as time expired.
The weight was off their shoulder. The sticks were nowhere in sight.
“It’s amazing,” Monaco said. “I don’t have many words to describe it. It’s what we were going for from Day 1.”