The ball sliced through the air deep from the right corner on a perfect line parallel to the goal. Standing near the far post, nearly hidden from the defense, Ashley Drozd watched as the ball quickly sank, waiting for just the precise moment to attack.
With Riverhead in a scoreless battle against Copiague late in the second half Wednesday afternoon, there was no player the Blue Waves would have wanted in position to convert such a golden opportunity more than Drozd, a junior midfielder.
Drozd leaped into the air and one-timed the ball into the net with her foot, securing the decisive goal in a 1-0 Blue Waves victory at Riverhead High School.
“She raises her level when she knows the game is on the line,” said Riverhead coach Hassan Olowu, who earned his first career victory as a varsity head coach. “She always does her best and that’s all that I can ask of her.”
It was the third goal of the season for Drozd, who has accounted for all of Riverhead’s scoring this season.
Freshman Katie McKillop delivered the winning assist on the ball from the right corner.
“Katie got a nice ball out wide and then she just crossed it in,” Drozd said.
After struggling to an 0-7 start, the Blue Waves could finally celebrate after a game. And Olowu even showed off with a celebratory cartwheel for his players.
“I don’t want to say it’s been frustrating, because the girls have done all they can,” Olowu said. “We see the improvement. The results don’t show it, that’s the unfortunate thing.”
Both teams came into the game winless in League IV. Each team had only scored two goals total on the season.
“We beat them twice last year, but it was only by one goal, so we had to come to play,” Drozd said. “But we knew we had a good shot.”
McKillop is the only freshman on the team, but she’s already in her second year on the varsity. Olowu said she’s the type of player who can contribute anywhere on the field.
“She’s very energetic and always does more than her fair share whenever she’s out there,” he said.
The Blue Waves (1-5 League IV, 1-7 overall) withstood several good scoring chances by the Eagles, most of them created by the speed of senior Vanessa Pandales.
Several points throughout the game Pandales got behind the defense for close to a straight breakaway. But she couldn’t convert on any of her opportuntieis, and if she got a shot on goal, junior Carolyn Carrera was there for the save.
“She had learjets on her feet,” Olowu said. “You could tell she had rockets. But no matter what the strengths of a forward may be, you have to do the simple things in order to contain them.”
The game featured its share of physical play, enough that Copiague (0-5, 1-6) got whistled for four yellow cards. Both the head coach and assistant for Copiague got hit with yellows for arguing with the officials about some of the contact.
Carrera posted the shutout in goal for the Blue Waves. They’ve also used senior Amanda Gallo in goal for some games, Olowu said.
“Both of them are great,” he said. “Depending on the matchups or the tactics, I may switch one player out onto the field and put the other one in goal.”
The Blue Waves were scheduled to scrimmage Port Jefferson Thursday, but otherwise have a full week off before their next game. They’ll return to play at Deer Park Oct. 13.