SUFFOLK CLASS C SEMIFINALS | WILDCATS 8, PANTHERS 7 (OT)
Meredith Bushell doesn’t crave the spotlight on a lacrosse field. It’s her competitiveness that drives her, and what has helped her thrive as a defensive player.
She rarely cracks the box score for goals or assists. And she’s fine with that.
“I don’t like people beating me,” the Shoreham-Wading River senior said of what motivates her on the field.
That mentality has helped her become one the premier defensive players in the county. And in Tuesday’s Class C semifinal game against Babylon, she faced the challenge of guarding an elite playmaker in Shelby Fredericks, a Northwestern committed attackman.
In a game where every goal was hard earned, the Wildcats needed to contain Fredericks for the final 2 1/2 minutes of regulation and into overtime, just long enough to emerge 8-7 winners and advance into next Tuesday’s county championship.
The Wildcats (13-4) will be making their 10th straight trip to a county final and will face their longtime rival in undefeated Mount Sinai.
The Wildcats never trailed against the Panthers, but there was no shortage of intense moments.
Fredericks struck twice in a 2 1/2 minute span to tie the game at 7 with 2:35 left in regulation. On her first goal, the ball bounced at the goal line and shot directly up and knocked off the crossbar into the cage. She tied the game on a free position for her next goal.
Bushell knows Fredericks well having played with her on several teams outside of school and at camps.
The Wildcats’ ‘backer’ zone defense doesn’t typically allow the defense to focus on one particular player. But when the Wildcats needed to make an adjustment in the second half to focus more on Fredericks, it was Bushell who got the call.
“I pretty much stayed with her when I knew we needed it,” Bushell said. “At the end when we had a free position, I was on her like glue.”
Fredericks (2 goals, 2 assists) had the ball in her stick with 10 seconds to go in regulation with a chance to win the game, exactly what the Panthers (12-5) could have hoped for at the start. But Fredericks waited a few seconds too long to make her move and couldn’t get off a strong shot at the end, sending the game into overtime.
“Meredith was doing great,” said Shoreham coach Mary Bergmann. “I don’t think [Fredericks] was getting too many looks late in the second half and into overtime. She was passing the ball around and that’s kind of what we wanted.”
In the first overtime period, Jessica Angerman won the opening draw against Fredericks, giving the Wildcats a crucial first possession. The Panthers had dominated on draws all game, but the Wildcats came up with a big one when they needed it.
With 1:33 left, Lauren Lustgarten circled behind the cage and found Paulina Constant darting to the front wide open. Constant caught the pass and buried the shot to put the Wildcats ahead 8-7.
“It’s a hard spot for the goalie,” Bergmann said. “The goalie’s backwards and has to turn around.”
To start the second overtime period (there are two three-minute halves in OT) the Panthers won the draw. As the Panthers tried passing the ball toward the crease, Meghan King intercepted a pass in front of the goal, sending the Wildcats in transition.
The goal for Shoreham became simple: hold the ball.
The Wildcats nearly ran the clock down, thanks in large part to a huge effort from Shannon Rosati. Earlier in the first overtime she took a hard hit and appeared a bit shaky forcing her to come out of the game. After the trainer determined her fit to return, Rosati came back in with 1:28 left. Using her speed, she raced through the Panthers’ defensive zone with the ball, running crucial seconds off the clock.
“I think that says a lot about her and says a lot about our team mentality ” Bergmann said. “She knew she wanted to come back in the game. Maybe without her we might not have been able to pull that off as good as we did.”
The Wildcats ran nearly two minutes off the clock before turning the ball over near midfield with 14 seconds left. The Panthers got one last chance, but couldn’t get off a quality shot at the end.
“I knew we were going to be OK,” Bushell said.
Goalkeeper Lauren Daly delivered a strong performance between the pipes for Shoreham. The sophomore stopped seven shots, including a big one with 1:35 left in regulation on a Fredericks shot. A scramble for the ground ball ensued behind the goal and Daly fought her way in to scoop up the ball.
“Lauren’s awesome,” Bushell said. “She literally saves us all the time.”
The Wildcats never led by more than two in the game, but each time Babylon tied it, they answered with a goal to recapture the lead. Shoreham got a balanced effort offensively with three players scoring multiple goals. Rosati, Alex Fehmel and Alyssa Pearce all scored a pair. Constant had 2 assists to go with her game-winning goal.