Rachel Feirstein, who once admired the Shoreham-Wading River High School girls lacrosse team from afar as an outsider (an opposing player for Smithtown East) is now the ultimate insider: She is the team’s coach.
Feirstein can now admire, from close range, the fervor with which the Wildcats practice. “They’re relentless,” she said. “They go hard after every ball.”
The Wildcats (13-5 last season) lost the bulk of their starting lineup, not to mention their coach, Mary Bergmann (the new Westhampton Beach coach), from last year’s team, which lost to Mount Sinai in the Suffolk County Class C final. But it sounds as if they haven’t lost their competitive spirit, an encouraging sign.
This is a new start, in a sense, for the Wildcats and their new coach, who played for Monmouth University (N.J.). Feirstein has been involved in lacrosse for about 14 years. With her first game as a varsity coach approaching (March 26 at Sayville), she said, “I guess I’m just as excited as I was as a player.”
Shannon Rosati, a senior midfielder headed for Ohio State, put up some nice numbers last season: 26 goals, 13 assists, 18 draw controls, 15 ground balls, 13 caused turnovers. And that was as a reserve player.
Key roles are also expected to be played by junior goalie Lauren Daly (145 saves, 15 ground balls, 23 caused turnovers), freshman midfielder Sophia Triandafils (12 goals, 10 draw controls, 7 ground balls, 6 caused turnovers), junior defender Erin Blomberg (4 ground balls, 10 caused turnovers) and freshman midfielder Sam Higgins (20 ground balls, 15 caused turnovers).
“We have all ends of the field covered between goalie, defense, midfield and attack,” Feirstein said. “We’ve got a lot of talent from freshmen all the way up to 12th grade.”
It is Feirstein’s job to figure out where the pieces fit best and what playing style Shoreham will adopt.
Without giving away any secrets, Feirstein said she likes balanced play. “I don’t like rushed play,” she said. “I don’t like to see the girls forcing things.”
During her time at Smithtown East and Monmouth, Feirstein never experienced a championship, something she would like to do as a coach. “Who wouldn’t want a championship, to have that feeling?” she asked.
It will not be easy, though. On the schedule are some tough teams like Mount Sinai, Sayville and Miller Place.
In relation to her new coaching career, Feirstein has received advice from her college coach, Denise Wescott, and a former teammate, Danielle Hawkins. “They both just said: ‘Have a fun time with it. Enjoy yourself. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.’ ”
Having fun sounds like good advice, to which Feirstein, ever the competitor, added, “Not too much fun because you have to win games.”
When Ashley King played for the University of Louisville, her father, Bill, passed on a motto to her: Never settle, always stay hungry.
Now the Riverhead coach has passed on those same words of advice to her team for this coming season.
“We can’t be complacent,” Ashley King said. “We have to fight it out every time.”
With that approach, it’s helpful to have a player like Carolyn Carrera, a senior midfielder who will play lacrosse and soccer for Hofstra University. King, in her first season as Riverhead’s coach last year, gained a firsthand appreciation for what Carrera can do on the lacrosse field.
“She’s just an overall amazing kid,” King said. “She doesn’t just fall into the norm of the regular student. She stands out from everybody.”
Carrera, an All-Division player and academic All-American, was a model of productivity for the Blue Waves (2-12) last season. She registered 43 goals, 18 assists and 42 draw controls, all team-leading figures.
“I think her biggest asset is her grittiness,” King said. “If the ball is turned over or we need the ball back, she’ll get back in that play, trying to make it happen. And she’s definitely an unselfish player.”
The Blue Waves have five other returning starters back: junior midfielder Amanda Dickerson, junior attacker Samantha Brodeur, junior defender Joanna Messina, senior midfielder Emily Jehle and sophomore midfielder Courtney Troyan.
The two goalies who split playing time last year, senior Paige Hubbard, and junior Jessica Purick, remain in place. They will get to work with the new junior varsity coach, Kristen Hordy, a former goalie for North Carolina. Alexa Bloss, a senior defender, is also back.
Good things are expected from a couple of freshmen who have been brought onto the team, attacker Aly Romer and midfielder Mikki Renten.
Having lost the voice of her defense, Jocelyn Zaneski, who plays basketball at SUNY/Cobleskill, King foresees some early-season struggles on defense.
“At Riverhead over here, [lacrosse is] kind of a new sport,” King said. “We’re turning athletes into lacrosse players. That’s just the road we have to take.”
King said that although the Blue Waves spent a lot of time on stick skills and basic fundamentals last year, the team is now working more on plays as a more advanced motion offense is put in place.
Asked what she likes best about her team, King didn’t hesitate to answer. “I have to say their attitude,” she said. “They’re easygoing. They listen to what you’re saying. They’re getting it done.”
Varsity girls lacrosse is new to Bishop McGann-Mercy, but the team’s coach is hardly new to lacrosse.
Mike Katz’s coaching résumé spans 20 years, and he has also served as a referee for 14 years.
But this is Katz’s first varsity head coaching job, and he has his work cut out for him, as do his players. “I bought into it because it’s challenging to me,” he said.
Katz is under no illusions. He said 80 percent of his players are new to lacrosse. “Some of these girls don’t know how to catch and throw yet,” he said.
The task that lays before them is considerable, facing some established teams from what Katz referred to as “the lacrosse capital of the world.”
One player with five years of lacrosse experience is senior midfielder Kayla Schroeher, the team captain. “I think at the end of the season, everybody will see that she’s an All-County player,” said Katz.
Schroeher was the only player Katz specified. “The reason why I don’t want to name anybody else is because we play team lacrosse,” he said.
“I’m very excited to see what my girls can do,” he added. “I have very, very athletic children on the team … and there’s a lot of heart and hustle.”
That heart and hustle will be put to the test when the Monarchs play their first game on March 26 at Miller Place.