Scoring goals can be a tricky thing. And tricky can become downright frustrating if the ball refuses to go into the goal.
Sometimes a field hockey team will do just about everything right, outshoot its opponent, accumulate more penalty corners and, in the end, still not have a goal or enough goals to show for their efforts.
The Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats know the feeling only too well.
Finishing was an issue last year for Shoreham-Wading River, which reached the second round of the playoffs before losing to Miller Place and ending up with an 8-7 record.
“We lost games we shouldn’t have lost last year,” said J. M. Jackson, who is in his second year of running the varsity team after serving as Shoreham’s junior varsity coach for eight years. “We were getting our opportunities, but we just weren’t finishing. If you’re not finishing, it can kind of gnaw at you.”
Two of the team’s captains are junior forward Erin Blomberg and senior defender Alexandra Pagano. They were starters last year along with sophomore defender Gabrielle Campo, junior midfielder Jessica McCormack and senior defender Samantha Pedulla. McCormack was named to the all-county tournament team.
Another captain is senior midfielder/forward Kayla Mistretta, who Jackson called an “underrated player.” Alexandra Hutchins, a junior forward who took last season off, was a pleasant surprise when she rejoined the team in a winter league. Emily DeGennaro, the backup goalie last year, moves into the starting role as a junior. “She totally has the ability to steal games,” said Jackson.
Jackson said the Wildcats, who are seeded seventh in Suffolk County Division II, have more positional depth than they did a year ago.
So much will depend, however, on how the Wildcats handle their scoring opportunities. Jackson understands the harsh reality of field hockey. “At the end of the day, the team that has the most goals wins,” he said. “If we finish, I definitely think we can do well.”
It took Riverhead several years to reach the playoffs last year, and judging by what the team lost following its first-round defeat to Centereach, it will not be easy to make a return trip this fall.
The Blue Waves graduated five core players who have been stalwarts in the program: Christy Brewer, Amanda Graziano, Christina Sacchitello, Corinne Kimmelman and Rebecca Reilly. Brewer, who was an all-county choice, is playing for SUNY/Cortland. Graziano (Mercy College), Sacchitello (Southern New Hampshire) and Kimmelman (SUNY/Oswego) are also playing in college.
That’s a big drain of experience and talent for a team to absorb.
“It’s a change this year,” coach Cheryl Walsh-Edwards said. “I do see it see it as a lot of rebuilding now.”
At the same time, it’s not a bad thing to have to rebuild with players like Danielle Napoli and Maria Dillingham. Napoli, a junior center midfielder, was an all-division player last year. Dillingham, a junior center forward, was all-conference and one of the top scorers in Suffolk.
“She’s a speedy Gonzalez,” Walsh-Edwards said. “She’s very fast.”
Riverhead, seeded ninth in restructured Suffolk Division II, also has defender Jessica Cheatom, defender Shannon Harden, forward Katelynn Zaneski, defender Sydney Kito, midfielder Amanda Baron, defender Rashae Smith and midfielder Emily Massa back from a team that won its last six regular-season games in order to qualify for the playoffs.
Dillingham, Napoli and Baron are all entering their third varsity year as juniors.
The new players looking to make their mark are goalie Paige Hubbard, forward Carley Hayon, forward Milce Garcia, defender Olivia Serpico, defender Madison Blom and defender Emily Pearce. Walsh-Edwards said she was not sure what positions Marissa Palermo and Amanda Dickerson will play.
With strong teams like Smithtown East and East Islip to contend with, Riverhead will have its hands full with a roster that is short on experience. Regardless, Walsh-Edwards sounded optimistic about the seasons to come.
“I’m really excited about the future,” she said. “It’s a strong freshman class.”