Rebels with a cause: L/P routs Rye
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SHRUB OAK, N.Y. — As Lakeland/Panas and Rye warmed up prior to Thursday's showdown at Lakeland High School, Rebels midfielder Chris Monteferante surveyed the shifting sun.
Immediately, he recognized there was an advantage to be had.
“It is hard (for the goalie to see) with the angle of the trees and everything,” Monteferante said, pointing to the near goal adjacent to the entrance of Lakeland's turf field. “There is a glare from the sun.”
The West Point-bound senior captain won the ensuing coin toss and put his plan into action, rifling four goals inside the first three minutes and 59 seconds of regulation to help L/P build a commanding 6-0 first-quarter lead. The Rebels rode the explosive opening quarter to an impressive 11-3 victory over the Garnets.
“We had a good quarter and came out firing,” said Monteferante, who notched a team-high five goals and an assist. “We've been coming out well the last couple games. Everything was just flowing. I don't think (Rye) got it down in our defensive end.”
Mother Nature might have played a tiny role in L/P's dynamite start, but the Rebels were also the superior team outright. They dominated all facets of the game, winning the ground ball battle 33-19 while outshooting the Garnets 23-14.
Offensively, Springfield College-bound senior middie Tony Laguerre played the role of distributor with five assists. Laguerre, who was more of a dodger last season, has flourished as a playmaker.
“Coach (Jim Lindsay) told me last year that I'd have to have the ball in my stick a lot more this year,” said Laguerre, who assisted on three of the six first-quarter goals. “It's basically quarterbacking, finding finishers like Brian (Prunty) and Ryan (Bonifati) and making sure I put the ball where it needs to go and give them chances to score.”
And the chances were aplenty.
Prunty, a sophomore sensation at attack, had three goals and an assist. He was a spitting image of his All-American brother Conor, who graduated last year and now plays at Siena College. Grant Perez (2G, 1A), Ryan Bonifati (1G) and Sean Higgins (1A) rounded out the offensive production. Perez, a shifty senior attackman, buried the only two goals of the second quarter to give the Rebels an 8-0 halftime advantage.
The 11 goals were a season-high for L/P, which had struggled with its finishing coming into the game.
“We worked hard on (finishing) yesterday in practice and were here early today working on it,” Monteferante said. “Hopefully, we are improving and keep going as the season progresses.”
With a goalie like Michael Zingaro, the Rebels won't have to stress too much about filling up the cage. After all, the sophomore star doesn't let many get by him.
“Mikey is going to make those saves you are supposed to make, but he's also going to make those tough in tight ones that a lot of people have trouble with,” Laguerre said.
Against Rye, Zingaro led a stout defensive effort, making a handful of his nine saves in highlight-worthy fashion. He kept Rye off the scoreboard till the 7:44 mark of the fourth quarter, when Cal Hynson intercepted a pass and scored on the ensuing breakaway. It was Zingaro's lone blemish, as he immediately gave way to backup Teddy Lopez (four saves) to finish out the game.
Overall, Zingaro has spearheaded a resurgent L/P defense, which has morphed from a weakness in 2011 to a major strength in 2012. The Rebels have relinquished just 5.25 goals a game thus far, which is roughly four less than last year.
“The defense has been playing outstanding,” Monteferante said. “They worked hard all season and preseason and we couldn't ask more from them.”
Rye — which came into the matchup averaging 8.83 goals a game — mustered a season-low three against L/P. Senior attackman Greg Stern was the lone bright spot with a pair of fourth-quarter goals.
“(The defense) doesn't get a lot of credit, but we know in practice they are on us and making us better,” Laguerre said. “Basically, they are keeping goals off the board. If we can get them to keep those low tallies, we have a good chance to win any game.”
L/P (6-2) — which has won four straight since losing to upstate power Pen Yan back on April 10 — has yet to lose to a Section 1 team. The Rebels will travel to Greenwich (CT) for their next game on Saturday, April 21. Rye (3-4) fell below .500 and will look to bounce back against Byram Hills at home on April 24.
Email Isaac Cass at Icass@cablevision.com | Follow him on Twitter @MSGV_Icass