Coaches at any level tend to worry about the letdown game. Following a big, emotional win, there’s always the fear that players won’t match the intensity at their next game.
For the Newfield field hockey team, one of those big wins came Saturday, a 1-0 victory over Smithtown East, a Division II rival that had been unbeaten in league up to that point.
On Tuesday, when the Riverhead Blue Waves traveled to Selden, any chance of a letdown game quickly evaporated for the Wolverines.
Newfield dominated the time of possession, peppered Riverhead’s goalkeeper with shots all game and prevailed 2-0. For the Blue Waves, it was the kind of effort they could be proud of by keeping the score close against one of the better teams in the county.
“They definitely stepped it up against the No. 2 team,” said Riverhead coach Cheryl Walsh-Edwards.
The Blue Waves came into the season as a bit of an unknown. They returned seven seniors, two of whom had not played on varsity, and were putting underclassmen in big roles.
The results have been encouraging.
Even after Tuesday’s loss, the Blue Waves sit in position to make the postseason for a second straight year with a 7-5 Division II record. Power points determine the final standings, so the picture isn’t entirely clear just yet with two games remaining.
“The future definitely looks very bright with the youth that we have,” Walsh-Edwards said. “I think the seniors are contributing, the returning group that’s back. We’re looking forward to getting into playoffs.”
To match up against a Newfield team that’s skilled across the field, the Blue Waves played a more defensive game. Walsh-Edwards said she played with three forwards as opposed to four to help bolster the back line, a strategy she uses at times against the top teams.
“I have a very young team,” she said. “There are times I have four freshmen and an eighth grader out there.”
The Wolverines (11-2, 11-1 Division II) got two goals in the opening half, striking quickly when forward Brianna Reyes scored with 29:12 left in the half. Gabby Ripp added another goal with 15:12 left.
It was a busy day between the pipes for Riverhead’s senior goalkeeper, Grace Dow. The third-year varsity starter finished with an impressive 25 saves.
“She played a really good game,” Walsh-Edwards said.
Senior Emily Pearce played one of her stronger games of the season in front of Dow, Walsh-Edwards said.
“She moved to the ball a lot and cleared it out of the circle a lot,” she said.
The Blue Waves went 0-2 against the Wolverines this year, falling 3-0 at home against them on Sept. 26. Last year, the team’s played a pair of wild games, both ending with Newfield wins. Riverhead let a 3-1 lead slip away in the first game last year and lost in overtime. The next game ended with a 1-0 Newfield win.
The Blue Waves will play at West Islip Friday and return home for its Senior Day Oct. 21 against Copiague. The opening round of the Class A playoffs are currently scheduled for Oct. 24.
Photo Caption: Riverhead senior Katelyn Zaneski clears the ball up field Tuesday against Newfield. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)