SUFFOLK COUNTY CLASS C TOURNAMENT | WILDCATS 16, TUCKERS 6
Without the benefit of explanation, records and statistics can be misleading. For example, the Shoreham-Wading River High School girls lacrosse team took a deceptive 6-8 record into its Suffolk County Class C Tournament outbracket game against Mattituck/Greenport/Southold on Saturday. On paper, it should have been a close game. On the field, though, it was a different story.
The teams had completed the regular season separated by a mere two places and only 6.94 power-rating points in the Division II standings. They were separated by a lot more on Saturday, though.
Fourth-seeded Shoreham burst out to an 11-0 lead in the first half when it outshot No. 5 Mattituck by 17-8, and coasted to a 16-6 win.
“We played better than we had all season,” said middie Logan Hoffmann, one of Shoreham’s eight seniors who can take away fond memories from their final game on their home field.
Manuela Cortes (three goals, two assists), Shannon Rosati (three goals, two assists) and Sophia Triandafils (three goals) led the Shoreham offense. Hoffmann added two goals and two assists, and Jesse Arline scored twice. Emily Sopko had a goal and two assists. Sam Higgins and Christy Steimel also scored for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats, two years removed from a state championship, had a slow start to their season. Their first-string goalie, junior Lauren Daly, missed half the season with a broken thumb while freshman Gwen Reinhardt filled in for her.
“With the slow start to the season, I think that they felt that we might not make it to postseason play, so they’re really excited that we’re here, and now we’re moving on to the semis,” said Wildcats coach Rachel Feirstein.
The Wildcats have undoubtedly made strides forward, so much so that Rosati said it is almost like an entirely different team. “It was hard to start,” she said, “but now we’re showing the real Wildcats that we are.”
That is a team to be respected, especially with the defense that they played. Feirstein said the Wildcats have been working on their man-to-man defense. It showed.
It was an historic occasion for the Tuckers (9-7). They played in their first playoff game in the team’s five-year history, completing their first winning season.
“They worked really hard to get here and we’re extremely proud of them,” said the Tuckers’ Meghan Cereola, who, like Feirstein, is a first-year coach.
The morning did not go smoothly for the Tuckers. Following a team breakfast, they waited for their team bus to take them to Shoreham for the game. They waited and waited and waited for the late bus. Finally, they arrived at the field about a half-hour before the starting time.
The Wildcats didn’t waste any time stamping their imprint on the game, which was played on a glorious afternoon in brilliant sunshine. The score was 3-0 by the time the contest was 4 minutes 31 seconds old, and 5-0 after nine minutes.
“Our first half was a little rough,” said Tuckers middie Molly Kowalski, whose team had won four of its previous six games.
The big story of the day was the play of Shoreham’s defense, which collapsed on the Tuckers whenever they probed for an opening. Shooting room was hard to come by for the Tuckers, and when they were able to put a shot on goal, Daly (11 saves) was often there to stop it.
“It was definitely going to be a tough one, but we knew we had a chance; you always have a chance,” Kowalski said. “We just had to leave it all on the field.”
A big part of Shoreham’s strategy, obviously, was to clamp down on Mattituck’s Katie Hoeg whenever she had the ball. At times the sophomore middie turned to face the Shoreham goal, only to find two or three and sometimes even four defenders in her way. Hoeg had two goals from five shots, assisted twice and collected seven ground balls.
Her younger sister, seventh-grader Riley Hoeg, and Kowalski, a senior playing her final game for the Tuckers, each scored twice.
The Tuckers didn’t get on the scoreboard until Katie Hoeg converted a penalty shot 2:52 into the second half.
When the teams last met, on April 19, the Wildcats walked away as 20-11 winners.
After Saturday’s game ended, both teams headed in opposite directions, literally, rushing toward their goalies for the purposes of either celebration or consolation. One statistic that didn’t lie was the final score.