After winning its first varsity girls lacrosse game in school history, the Riverhead Blue Waves came back down to earth in losses to the Commack Cougars and the Smithtown West Bulls last week.
With six minutes remaining in an 18-8 defeat to Smithtown West last Thursday, Riverhead Coach Rich D’Alsace noticed something that told him a lot about his team when captain Bethany Peters called a timeout.
“Bethany wanted to go over to the team and say: ‘Listen, we’ve got six minutes left. Let’s use this six minutes to try to shut this team down, try to work. They’re going to try to spread the field. Let’s pressure them, try to get the ball back,’ ” he said.
“Even though they weren’t necessarily going to win the game, they were still working towards bettering their skills against tough competition, which is fantastic.”
Being a first-year team, this season will be a learning experience for the Blue Waves, who dropped a 20-8 decision to Commack in the Suffolk County Division I game on March 29.
“We had a game plan. We had hoped to catch Commack a little bit off-guard, coming out with a strong start,” D’Alsace said. “We were looking to spend a lot of time in the offensive zone to slow the game down. They were a little nervous going in — their first league game, their first game against a real tougher competition. They weren’t really sure what it was going to be like. I went into that game just looking to be competitive. Their athleticism broke us down a bit on the field.”
Freshman Carolyn Carrera scored three goals and Sandra Ruttkayova added two for the Blue Waves.
Two days later the Blue Waves trailed Smithtown West, 13-4, at the half and faced an uphill battle. It didn’t help that Smithtown West double- and triple-teamed some Riverhead players.
“They were able to pressure them and shut us down a little bit,” D’Alsace said. “But we made some adjustments in the game and we came back.”
Peters paced the Blue Waves with two goals.
“We did a lot of things right, but there are obviously a lot of things we need to improve on,” D’Alsace said. “I was not disappointed in either one of the games. We’re a team that is definitely going to be learning. The first two teams, Commack and Smithtown West, are two of the tougher teams we’re going to face. I would have liked the outcome to be a little more competitive, but we definitely played hard the whole time.”
D’Alsace praised the performance of Peters, Stacy Griffing and Danielle McCabe. He said that Peters’ “leadership skills have started to develop really well“ and that he has been impressed with “her communication with the team and just being that solid player who goes out and works hard.”
McCabe and Griffing are seniors who started playing last year. “I am very happy that in their two years they have been able to pick up the game,” he said. “They’re both tremendous athletes and it’s definitely a big help.”
Sabrina Harris and Emily Oruc have stood out defensively. “Both are really good athletes and have been doing a real great job,” D’Alsace said. “They really hustle and they hold us in games, slowing it down and working hard.”
One player who has turned heads is Carrera, who struck for six goals in her debut in a 17-8 win over the Center Moriches Red Devils. The younger sister of Riverhead senior boys lacrosse player Mario Carrera, she was limited to an assist vs. Smithtown West.
“She got a little overwhelmed in that game,” D’Alsace said. “But part of that was that she wasn’t feeling very well at all going into the game. I don’t think that she will use that as an excuse. She’s a really tough kid. I don’t think she thought it was going to affect her as much as it did, but I can see it was definitely getting to her in a game.”
Afterwards, D’Alsace talked to Carrera.
“O.K., you’re having a bad game; what can you do to still be valuable?” he said to her. “If you are being double- and triple-teamed, how can we use that to our advantage? I think she understood it. I think she will make an adjustment.”
Carrera’s first opportunity is today, when the Blue Waves will host the Sachem East Flaming Arrows in a rescheduled game that was rained out Tuesday.