CLASS B SEMIFINALS | PANTHERS 3, WILDCATS 1
It was only a matter of time before one of the most decorated field hockey programs on Long Island returned to the top.
For much of the ’80s, ’90s and early 2000′s, the road to a county title ran directly through Miller Place. And more often than not, it was the Panthers hoisting a county trophy.
That began to change around 2006, when Shoreham-Wading River — a proud program in its own right — turned the tables on Miller Place. The Wildcats won 13 out of 15 games against the Panthers before last year, consistently ending their season in the playoffs while running off four straight county titles from 2007-10.
Now, the Panthers have flipped the script back into their favor.
After ending Shoreham’s season in the playoffs last year, the Panthers did it again Saturday morning with a 3-1 victory at Miller Place High School in the Class B semifinals. Going back to last season, the Panthers have now won five straight games against the Wildcats including all three meetings this season.
“This is definitely the strongest team they’ve had for the better part of a decade since I’ve been in the program,” said Shoreham coach J.M. Jackson. “Their program is definitely going places beyond where it was in the past.”
The Wildcats, playing less than 24 hours after a victory over Harborfields, saw their season finish at 8-8. Miller Place, the top seed in the bracket, remains undefeated at 17-0. The Panthers will play Monday for the county championship, which would be their first since 2005.
The Panthers feature a roster that more resembles a football team in terms of numbers than a field hockey team. Their depth across the board is hard to match and the Panthers aren’t afraid to rotate in multiple subs.
It helps fuel their high-octane pace, which was something the Wildcats hoped to avoid.
“Coming into today it was just bringing our game and being patient and not falling into the trap of playing that huge run and gun game.”
The Wildcats were more effective in the second half slowing the pace down and maintaining possession in the Miller Place end. But after giving up two goals in the first half, the Wildcats couldn’t mount enough of a comeback.
Shoreham began to earn more penalty corners in the second half and it paid off when sophomore Jessica McCormack converted after a pass from senior Christina Malave.
The goal sliced the Panthers’ lead to 2-1 with 15:42 left in the game. The Wildcats called a timeout four minutes later, regrouping to make one final push to try to tie the game.
Instead, the Panthers, after getting outworked for much of the half, put the game away with 9:18 left. After an initial shot from Miller Place was saved by Shoreham goalkeeper Kendal Conway (8 saves), the ball bounced back out toward Miller Place senior Jamie Emma. She knocked the ball toward the cage and just as it hit the goal line, junior Megan Conzalez tapped it in to push the Panthers’ lead back to two.
The Panthers were playing their first game since Oct. 23. If there was any rust from all the time off, it didn’t show.
The Panthers needed only 92 seconds to score the first goal of the game.
Senior Emily Mott scored off a rebound after a shot from junior Maggie Revera. The two teamed up for the next goal with 13:30 left in the first half, this time with Revera scoring off an assist from Mott. The play was set up off a corner.
“A corner for them is like a point,” Jackson said.
Conway was kept busy in goal for Shoreham. Late in the first half she made three straight saves on one play as the Panthers kept attacking the rebounds. In the second half after Shoreham had the cut the deficit to one, Conway made a stop on Ally Hutzler, who got behind the defense on a breakaway.
“Being her JV coach, she’s come a long way since her freshman year,” Jackson said. “I’m very proud of her. Today was her birthday so the script was written very well. Unfortunately it didn’t end I’m sure the way she wanted it to end.”
Conway was one of nine seniors for Shoreham who played their final field hockey game as a Wildcat.