When a team achieves at such a high level over a long period of time, it can become easy for an outsider to take for granted the grind of the regular season and jump ahead to the bigger games that undoubtedly await at the end of the season.
For the players and coaches, there’s no such luxury.
During Shoreham-Wading River’s state championship season last year — the Wildcats’ fifth in the last six years — it was a gradual climb to the top. Every practice and game ultimately built toward the states, where in the biggest moment the Wildcats played their best lacrosse.
“It took us until probably the state semifinals last year to really get the trust in our attacking unit between midfielders and attack 100 percent, which I guess is the best time to have it,” said Shoreham coach Mary Bergmann, who is in her third year as the varsity coach.
While the Wildcats return all but three players from last year’s team, the early part of the season is about building that trust up again, all in the hopes of it clicking by late May.
“We make an agreement after our first team meeting not to talk about anything but that first seed [in the playoffs],” Bergmann said. “And then we’ll deal with that once we get there.”
The Wildcats are the defending state champs, but they open the 2013 season as the No. 2 seed in Division II. Mount Sinai, which returns all of its starters from last season, received the No. 1 seed. Shoreham beat Mount Sinai 11-7 in last year’s Class C county championship.
The strength of Shoreham’s team lies in its senior class. The Wildcats have 13 seniors, most of whom are veteran varsity players.
The only downfall to having so many seniors is it leaves a massive hole to fill after the season. To help prepare for that, Bergmann put together the largest varsity roster in the program’s history. The Wildcats have 28 varsity players and another 24 girls are on the junior varsity.
“Practices are a little more competitive now,” Bergmann said. “We have to split things into two groups so the girls know they have to work hard because we wanted to make sure we kept things from where we were at the end of last season. Sometimes it’s hard because you bring in a bunch of players that have never played at the varsity level before and I’m sure it’s intimidating for them to walk in with 13 seniors in front of you.”
Also intimidating is the depth of the Wildcats’ midfield, which figures to cause headaches for teams all season.
Bergmann said she hopes to open the season by rotating two midfield lines. Part of that is looking ahead to next year by giving some of the younger girls experience.
Seniors Jessica Angerman (Michigan), Alex Fehmel (Fairfield), Paulina Constant (Ohio State) and junior Shannon Rosati will form the first midfield line. Sophomore Manuela Cortes, freshman Isabella Cortes and eighth-grader Sophia Triandafils will form the second midfield line.
On attack the Wildcats return seniors Lauren Lustgarten (Central Connecticut) and Alyssa Pearce (Sacred Heart).
“Last year our attack was constantly rotating,” Bergmann said. “We didn’t have four that we were consistently using.”
Rosati, for example, would often slide to attack from the midfield and can do so again.
Senior Clare Blomberg (Merrimack) started the season practicing attack and defense.
On defense the Wildcats return seniors Meredith Bushell (Ohio State) and Meghan King.
Senior Rachel Steimel will see an increased role on defense.
“On defense we need to get a unit together and just keep them together for the whole season,” Bergmann said.
In goal the Wildcats return sophomore Lauren Daly, who already has two years varsity experience and has verbally committed to Boston College. The Wildcats have plenty of depth, but goalie is not part of that. The Wildcats don’t have a backup, but Bergmann said she hopes toward the end of the season one of the JV goalies will emerge into a varsity backup.
A strength for Shoreham last season was its balanced offensive attack. That should be the case again this year. With the depth in the midfield and skilled attackers, the Wildcats have plenty of girls who can put the ball in the back of the net.
“Our game plan is pretty much the same,” Bergmann said. “We’re not expecting to just keep giving the ball to one person.”
Shoreham opens the season Monday at Kings Park.