The Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats approach each season with an understanding that it’s the end of the season that matters most. The Wildcats often talk about hitting their peak in May for the start of the playoffs.
This year, there’s a slight adjustment.
“This year we added ‘and June’ because we kept saying May last year,” said second-year head coach Mary Bergmann. “But we’re saying May and June we want to be hitting our peak.”
For a program with the recent history of Shoreham, playing in June became an annual rite. The Wildcats won seven straight county titles, five Long Island and four state crowns coming into last year.
The historic run came to an end last year when the Wildcats, as a Class B team, lost a close game to a talented Hauppauge team in the county final. That the Wildcats had even gotten that far came as a shock to most. The Wildcats needed to string together wins down the stretch of the regular season just to make the playoffs as the No. 6 seed.
But as their saying goes, the Wildcats hit their peak at just right time and they pulled off upsets over higher seeded Rocky Point and Sayville.
This year, with almost the entire roster back, the Wildcats are poised to make another run into June. The Wildcats drop back down to Class C, where they played during all four state championships.
They’re already in much better shape than last year. Before the Wildcats played their first regular season game last year they were already down two starters, who each tore an ACL in the preseason.
“We’re hoping we paid our dues last year and we don’t have to worry about [injuries],” Bergmann said. “We’ve already talked about if someone has an injury, we just need to move on from it.”
The Wildcats lost their leading goal scorer from last year in Marissa Kluber, who now plays at Mercy College. But they return a talented core, including their entire starting midfield line.
The trio of juniors Alex Fehmel, Jess Angermann and Paulina Constant make up the first midfield line. All three have played varsity since ninth grade. As the season progressed last year they evolved into the team’s best midfield group.
“We kept them together all through the offseason, so we’re going to keep them [together] this year,” Bergmann said.
Angermann has already committed to play at Michigan and Constant committed to Ohio State.
Sophomore Shannon Rosati will see time at midfield as well while also playing attack. Senior Katie Boden, who was sidelined all of last year, returns on attack. After a 20-point season as a sophomore, Boden was expected to have a breakout year last season, but an ACL injury never gave her a chance.
Boden has already signed to play at the University of Massachusetts.
She’ll be joined on attack by juniors Alyssa Pearce and Lauren Lustgarten, who’s committed to Central Connecticut State.
Senior Alyssa Fleming and junior Meredith Bushell will anchor the Wildcats’ backer defense. Fleming is already signed with Stony Brook University and Bushell committed to Division I powerhouse Northwestern, the defending national champion.
Bergmann said defense was a strong point for the team last year, citing the county championship game where the Wildcats gave up only eight goals to Hauppauge.
“It was just our transition from defense into attack and our attack is what hurt us in the county game,” she said. “That whole defensive unit is really strong.”
Senior Meghan King and Patricia Miller solidify the defense alongside Fleming and Bushell.
“The four of them pretty much stay in almost the whole time,” Bergmann said. “They know the slides. The backer defense is a hard defense to play if you don’t slide appropriately.”
The Wildcats only have one goalie, but a good one in freshman Lauren Daly. She started last year splitting time with a senior before taking over full-time about midway through the season.
“We just didn’t know with an eighth-grader how she was going to respond to playing at that sort of level,” Bergmann said. “But she proved to us that she was a starter.”
The Wildcats expect to face the tough competition to come from the usual suspects in Division II: Hauppauge, Rocky Point, Sayville and Mount Sinai. The Mustangs went to the Class C state finals last year and return all but three key players.
This year only three teams will qualify for the playoffs in Class C, so the No. 1 seed earns an automatic spot into the championship game.
“I think Mount Sinai is just as strong as we are,” Bergmann said. “I think it’s just going to come down to who plays better that day.”
If the schedule sticks to form, the Wildcats and Mustangs could very well be playing May 31 for a bid into the Long Island final — and into June.