They just couldn’t hold the Tigers.
Then again, no other Suffolk County girls lacrosse team has been able to do that.
Riverhead put up a valiant effort, but even the Blue Waves’ best wasn’t good enough to top of the best of Class A on Wednesday afternoon.
Host Northport reminded everyone at Veteran’s Park and other lacrosse fans why it is still undefeated, recording a 15-10 semifinal victory as the Blue Waves’ best season ended on a losing note.
The Tigers (19-0) advanced to the county championship against West Islip — the winner over Ward Melville — while the Blue Waves (11-6), who reached the semifinals for the first time in their eight-year history, go home knowing their program took a giant step this year.
“It’s definitely a memorable season,” coach Ashley Schandel said. “This group of girls has been nothing but positive, all about the team. That’s the main focus this year. We weren’t worried about stats or whose name was in the paper or any of that kind of stuff. The biggest thing about this team was we played as a whole — people from the sideline to the girls on the team. We haven’t gone this far. This is a huge step for us. We’re not done yet. We got here. Next year, we’ve got to go past here. Every single year, we’ve got to go further.”
Top-seeded Northport made sure Riverhead would not go further this season. A well-balanced team, the Tigers were paced by county scoring leader Olivia Carner (73 goals, 30 assists).
The Blue Waves, however, were sometimes their worst enemies, especially on attack. They lost possession several times on unforced errors, squandering potential scoring opportunities. That’s something no team can afford against a team like Northport.
“The errors, they killed us,” said Shannon Schmidt, who scored twice. “Sometimes we’d drop the ball and it would go out of bounds. That probably killed us because we wanted to score. We were so riled up by all this. We wanted to score so much that we dropped the ball.”
Added Megan Kielbasa, who led the Blue Waves with three goals: “I thought we were very prepared going into it. We didn’t fully execute and played to our full potential. We never gave up and played to the last buzzer. We gave it all we got for a new team coming here.”
The Tigers bolted out to a 3-0 lead with 17 minutes and four seconds remaining in the first half as Carner scored two of her game-high five goals. Riverhead cut into the lead at halftime, 5-3, behind Kielbasa, Delu Rizzo and Emma Conroy.
It seemed that every time the Blue Waves moved within striking range of the host side, Northport would answer back with at least one goal.
“It’s difficult,” Kielbasa said. “I mean at times you definitely get in your head and you get down on yourself. But the important thing is having teammates there to pat you and your back and say, ‘Keep your head up, we’ve got you. Look at the time. There’s plenty of time left.’ ”
Riverhead trimmed the deficit to 10-6 on a Schmidt goal with 14:26 remaining in the second half before the hosts scored four consecutive goals within a span of 9:12 to take a 14-6 advantage.
Riverhead, however, never gave up, outscoring the Tigers 4-1 down the stretch.
“It can be hard to get yourself in a hole and try to keep yourselves up,” Schandel said. “You can call a timeout and you can see the emotions go down. It’s hard to get it back up, but they did. They continued to hear the girls chirping out there, ‘Keep your heads up, keep fighting.’ And they did. As coaches we are very proud of them for that.”
Top photo caption: Riverhead’s Christine Thomas fires a shot on goal. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)
CORRECTION: A photo caption misidentified the player in the top photo. It is Christine Thomas.