Rye Country Day Boys’ Lacrosse

Wildcats Beat Hackley in Overtime for NYSAIS Title

By Mitch Silver

What is it about Hackley? For some reason, the mere sight of a Hackley uniform no matter the sport has Rye Country Day athletes playing on a higher level than even they thought possible. It was certainly true May 24 at Manhattanville College when the two teams met to decide the championship of the New York State Association of Independent Schools boys’ lacrosse tournament.

Of course, it also could have been a grudge thing. The Hornets defeated the Wildcats 12-9 in the 2016 final at Randalls Island, and Coach Matt Rosolen’s boys certainly wanted payback. It looked like they would get it in spades this year when, after tromping Dalton and Trinity in the quarters and semis, Tommy Chai picked up the opening faceoff of the final, drove to his right, and slung a shot over the right shoulder of Hackley goalie Eli Hankin for the first score just 20 seconds into the game. Less than three minutes later, senior co-captain Chai fed sophomore Ray Konopka in front for a one-bounce shot and a 2-0 lead.

The Hornets called time out. There must have been Kickapoo Joy Juice in the Gatorade bottles in the huddle, because when play resumed Rye’s domination was gone. Suddenly, passes went awry, stick checks were missed, ground balls were bobbled. Hackley took advantage and scored. And scored. And scored. And scored. And, yes, scored with a minute left in the half to go up by 5-2.

The ragged play by the Grandview Avenue crew persisted right through the third period. Only senior Henry Shipman’s spectacular play in goal kept the score at 5-2 going into the final 12 minutes. But then the game looked out of reach when yet another giveaway in front led to a sixth Hackley goal by Will Jones at the nine-minute mark.

It was at that point that, as Assistant Coach Tim Silverman put it, “Tommy put the team on his back.” Chai scored on a nifty reverse from behind the cage at 6:32 to make it 6-3. Like the Prince kissing Sleeping Beauty, it woke things up.

Chai scored a minute later on a solo effort that included moves with his stick that should lead to a re-recording of “Hand Jive, that 50s hit. It was 6-4 Hackley.

Rye Country Day sophomore Harrison Roth managed to sneak a shot past Hankin’s right foot to cut the deficit to a single goal with two and a half minutes left in the game. And then, with 90 seconds to go, sophomore defender Isaac Sacks used his long stick to win the most important faceoff of his life. Chai picked up the ball and fooled Hankin with a jump shot for the goal that gave the Wildcats new life at 6-6.

In the first five-minute, sudden-victory OT, Chai had two shots stopped and Roth had a point-blank effort that was turned away. Then, with two minutes left in the second extra period, Shipman made a save and got the ball out to his defenseman who overshot his clearing pass, something the Wildcats must have done a dozen times or more. This time, though, Konopka was Johnny on the spot. He picked up the loose ball, rumbled down the right side, and whipped a shot past the startled keeper for the win.

After praising Shipman, Konopka, and what he termed “an airtight defense the whole second half,” Assistant Coach Brian O’Callaghan singled out Tommy Chai for special praise. “That kid has really broad shoulders.”

Wildcat sophomore Isaac Sacks (in white) battles for a faceoff.

Senior captain Tommy Chai, right, was ferocious in the 4th quarter.

Tommy Chai wards off a Hackley defender on his way to scoring the tying goal.