It might not have been exactly the passing of the torch, but more of the returning of the hair tie that marked the occasion.
Two talented lacrosse players, one at the beginning of her high school career, the other nearing the end, met during the pre-game captain meeting with the referees at Patchogue-Medford High School on Tuesday.
Riverhead freshman midfielder Carolyn Carrera shook hands with Patchogue-Medford senior middie Holly Ventimiglia, who asked her for a favor.
“Can I borrow a hair tie?” she asked. “I need to braid my hair. I see you have three on your wrist.”
Carrera replied: “You can. No problem.”
By the time Ventimiglia returned the hair tie, the all-county selection had scored five goals, leading the Red Raiders (4-9, 4-8) to a 17-9 win in the Suffolk County Division I encounter.
Carrera made another impression on Ventimiglia and her foes, scoring four goals and winning draws for the Blue Wave (3-10, 2-10), who are competing at the varsity level this season for the first time.
“I thought Riverhead did a phenomenal job,” Patchogue-Medford Coach Ralph Tubello said. “I thought No. 1 from Riverhead did a phenomenal job off the draw control. She kept them in the game.”
When told that No. 1 — Carrera — was a ninth-grader, Tubello replied: “She’s a freshman? She’s an outstanding girl.”
Ventimiglia, who received flowers during Senior Day ceremonies prior to the game, is heading to Jacksonville University on a lacrosse scholarship. She can relate to Carrera because she has played on the varsity since she was an eighth-grader.
“She stood out on the team. She was really aggressive,” Ventimiglia said, adding that if Carrera’s stick skills “progress, she will be a great player. She’ll probably end up playing in college ball.”
Learning the finer points of the high school game is Carrera’s primary objective these days, whether it is from Coach Rich D’Alsace or even rivals.
Carrera, who did her math homework while watching the junior varsity team play after her game, said she was most impressed with Ventimiglia’s “heart and her determination. She never let up, never dropped her head. She just kept going. The team looked to her as a leader.”
Those responsibilities could fall on Carrera’s shoulders someday.
“She’s faced some tough games this year,” D’Alsace said. “At the beginning of the year, her name wasn’t out there yet and teams didn’t get on her right away, which gave her an advantage. Teams picked up on her name. They knew she was going to be on the draws and they doubled and tripled her. So she had some games where it got to her and she had some games she was able to get around it. Today I thought she played pretty well.
“Sometimes she gets a little overworked. Sometimes she makes young mistakes. She’s 14. She’s going to make those mistakes. Sometimes she puts a lot more pressure on herself. She feels like she needs to do too much on her own. She is the girl who is seeing everybody, the girl who is running the show. For the most part she has progressed fantastic.
“Whether it’s a good game or not, she improves every game. She goes home and thinks about it and knows what she did right and what she did wrong. She asks questions.”
While the score did not show it, the Blue Waves’ performance was a marked improvement over earlier results.
“I honestly feel very good about it, very positive,” Carrera said. “We played so much better as a team these past few games. We have been really stepping it up, playing hard. There are a few simple things we’ve got to fix, but we played very well. I don’t think the score really reflects how much improvement we’ve had.”
D’Alsace said his team has grown by leaps and bounds.
“We’re just not finishing right now,” he said. “We’re getting good double teams on defense, but then we’re not finishing by the girls sliding to cover an open. We’re getting double-teamed on attack and we’re getting our girls open, but she’s not going to goal aggressively. I told them at halftime, ‘You’re right there.’ It’s the little things, just the finishing that’s killing us. But I’m just ecstatic that we’re still moving up.”