Hewlett takes playoff opener

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Hewlett didn’t exactly enter the Nassau Class B boys’ lacrosse playoffs projecting a positive vibe, having lost its last three regular-season games and averaging only 3.5 goals over the last four.

The Bulldogs made the most of a clean slate, however, knocking out visiting Herricks, 13-5, in a first-round playoff matchup between the No. 5 and 12 seeds played in a driving rainstorm Monday evening. Sam Rovner had five goals and two assists, Vincent Morello added four goals, and Jordan Epstein chipped in a pair of goals and four assists as the seniors led a breakout performance by the offense.

“It’s our season-high in goals,” Hewlett coach Jesse Corben said. “We’ve been in a slump. We scored only 14 goals total in the last four games, so it was nice to see a lot of guys contribute.”

Standout senior goaltender Max May, who is having an All-County caliber season according to Corben, made nine saves, upping his total on the year to 195 stops in 15 games. “Obviously this is coming from his coach, but I feel Max is the best goalie in the county,” Corben said. “He’s been incredible all season long.”

Hewlett (9-6 overall) advanced to face fourth-seeded Calhoun in the quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon. In a back-and-forth Conference B-1 finale on May 7, the Colts edged the Bulldogs 4-3 on an overtime goal by Hayden Pryor. “When the brackets came out, we were pumped to see if we advanced we’d get Calhoun,” said May, who had 16 saves against the Colts while counterpart Kyle Munson turned aside 13 Hewlett shots. “We’re excited to get a rematch,” he added. “We came into the playoffs hungry. It was good to see us get double digits in goals.”

Herricks entered the playoffs with four straight wins and nine overall, albeit some came against struggling programs. Playmakers Dylan Hasse (45 goals) and Aaron Cho (39) both had 70 points during the regular season and were the focus of a Bulldogs’ defense spearheaded by Matt Weiss, Mitchell Silverman, Josh Ziarno and Ian Acriche.

“We defended a little differently than we’re used to because of how Herricks likes to attack,” Corben explained.

The Highlanders hung around early and trailed only 2-1 after Hasse scored his first of two goals with 13 seconds remaining in the opening quarter to answer a pair by Rovner. Hewlett’s attack became more comfortable and confident in the second, led by Rovner and Epstein. They combined for three goals and three assists as the Bulldogs built a 6-3 halftime cushion.

“They played a zone defense, which we hadn’t seen in a while,” May said. “Eventually the guys cracked the code and we started to roll.”

Hewlett outscored the visitors 4-0 in the third to take a commanding eight-goal lead into the fourth.

“Our heads were down coming into today,” Corben said. “But this should get our confidence back up and hopefully we can beat Calhoun when it counts.”