Rebuilding years have been few and far between at Shoreham-Wading River. From 2004 through 2013, the Wildcats never really rebuilt as they much as they rolled one standout team into the next.
The 2014 season represented a change of course. The Wildcats, under a new coaching staff, stumbled to a 7-9 season. The record, though, was a bit deceiving for the young group. The team still advanced to the county semifinals, falling by four goals to a stacked Mount Sinai team that was in the midst of a 37-game win streak.
The Wildcats have their sights set on a return to the upper echelon of the county this year. The preseason rankings seem to think otherwise. The Wildcats were seeded 12th out 24 Division II teams, according to second-year coach Rachel Feirstein.
“I definitely think we’re much better than that,” Feirstein said after the team’s first outdoor practice Monday. “Last year was a rebuilding year, so I don’t think the other teams in the league realize the talent we have on our team.”
The middle-of-the-pack seeding came as a surprise to Feirstein.
“I don’t think it’s ever a bad thing to be an underdog,” she said.
Of course, with the level of play as high as it is across the county, even a strong team can stumble at times. The Wildcats lost their top offensive threat from a year ago in Shannon Rosati (Ohio State), but Feirstein said this year’s squad is deeper.
And it helps to have a rock in net. The Wildcats have one of the best goalies around in Lauren Daly. The senior is bound for Boston College and will be entering her fifth season as the team’s starting goalkeeper. She helped lead the Wildcats to a state championship as a freshman.
“She leads our defense,” Feirstein said. “She’s vocal back there. She’s a phenomenal athlete and knows the game of lacrosse very well.”
An injury sidelined Daly early last season, a contributing factor to the team’s 1-5 start. Feirstein said Daly is back healthy this year and focused on ending her career on a high note.
Manuela Cortes is a returning starter who will help anchor the defense in front of Daly, Feirstein said.
In the midfield, Sophia Triandafils and Sam Higgins both return.
Triandafils, a sophomore, has been on varsity since eighth grade.
“She’s an all-around player,” Feirstein said. “Attack, defense, she’s all over the field.”
Eighth-grader Isabella Meli joins the varsity this year as a midfielder/attackman and has the potential to raise some eyebrows, Feirstein said. She’s the only eighth-grader on varsity.
Jesse Arline is another returner on attack who could be in line for a breakout season. Feirstein said Arline is coming off a standout season in the summer on her travel team.
Feirstein said the depth on the team this year will allow her to make more substitutions. The Wildcats had 49 girls come out for the team between varsity and JV.
“There’s a lot of young talent this year,” Feirstein said.
The Wildcats open the non-league season Saturday at home against Riverhead. The league season kicks off March 25 with a rivalry game against Rocky Point.
In Riverhead’s brief history, the program was synonymous with one name: Carolyn Carrera. A standout midfielder, Carrera had been the Blue Waves’ top player throughout her high school career.
Now that Carrera is playing at Hofstra University, the Blue Waves will take on a new identity this season under third-year coach Ashley King.
“They’re big shoes to fill, but we have a big upperclassmen group so they know what needs to be done,” King said. “I think now we have a lot of depth that it won’t be just looking for one person.”
The Blue Waves return 10 seniors to this year’s team for the fifth year of a varsity program. Riverhead posted a 5-10 record last year.
“I think they’ve all grown into better lacrosse players,” King said.
In the midfield, the Blue Waves return Courtney Troyan, a junior, and Amanda Dickerson, a senior.
King said both girls are among the team’s most versatile players. The Blue Waves will rely on them on both ends of the field.
Dickerson is headed to Pace University for lacrosse next year.
Senior Amanda Baron will be one of the team’s top defenders, King said. Jessica Purick, who was a backup goalie last year, will take over the starting job this season.
On attack, the Blue Waves return sophomore Alyssa Romer and senior Samantha Brodeur.
“I think that this group of girls this year is very dedicated, from our best player to our weakest player,” King said. “I think we’ll be successful and the girls know our success is going to come from the amount of effort that they put in.”
The Blue Waves were seeded 19th out of 21 teams in Division I this year so they’ll have their work cut out for them.
King said she was confident the Blue Waves could surprise some teams this year. Saturday’s non-league opener at Shoreham will be a homecoming for King. She graduated in 2006 from Shoreham and was a key player in the program’s early success.
It’ll be the first time she faced her former school as a coach.
“It’ll be good,” she said.
The Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs will continue building a young program under two new coaches this season. The school hired co-head coaches, Melina Mezzanotte and Brittany DeGennaro. Both played lacrosse at College of Mount Saint Vincent and graduated from Mercy.
The coaches could not be reached before deadline.