BOB LIEPA PHOTO | North Babylon's Emily Catalano examined her passing options while Riverhead's Stacy Griffing closed in on her and Riverhead goalie Emily Parker watched.
In an odd sort of a way, it’s one of the greatest signs of respect that can be shown in high school girls lacrosse. A team will typically put more than one defender on the opponent’s most dangerous offensive player.
With that in mind, a great deal of flattery was directed Carolyn Carrera’s way on Thursday.
Carrera, a center middie for the Riverhead Blue Waves, found herself double-, triple-, and even quadruple-teamed sometimes by North Babylon Bulldogs determined to block her path to the goal. That extra attention is something the talented freshman has had to deal with since the season-opening game.
“It does get frustrating, but the only thing you can do is work through it,” Carrera said. “Any time you have that pressure, you’re getting better yourself. You’re learning from it and new ways to get out of it, so it’s all good in the long run.”
The Blue Waves would have loved to have won the game for their absent coach, but they’re convinced he would have been proud of their effort had he been there to see it.
But effort alone was not enough to stop North Babylon which, boosted by a five-goal, four-assist performance from Kelsey Hart, handed the Blue Waves a 17-3 loss at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field in Riverhead.
In picking up its third straight win, North Babylon (5-4, 3-3 in Suffolk County Division I) broke over the .500 mark for the first time this season. The Bulldogs received hat tricks from Ally Kennedy, Alyssa Ferro and Brit Rosino. Amanda Martinez chipped in a pair of assists. North Babylon goalkeeper Alyssa Chetti was credited with nine saves.
“We played great,” Hart, a junior middie, said. “We played together. Everyone got a chance to show what they had.”
North Babylon undoubtedly has a lot. Coach Stacey McPartland believes the Bulldogs have what it takes to make it into the playoffs for the first time in three years.
“We’re very physical,” she said. “We’re very run and gun. We’re hot-headed. We need to slow it down a little bit sometimes, you know, and think. Our lax IQ is a little shaky, but we have really good athletes and a lot of good runners.”
Riverhead (2-5, 1-5) was without Coach Rich D’Alsace. D’Alsace was in Florida because of a death in the family. In D’Alsace’s absence, the junior varsity coach, Tracey Carron, ran the team along with a varsity assistant coach, Jim Janecek.
The Blue Waves learned on Monday that a nephew of D’Alsace’s had died, and it had an impact.
BOB LIEPA PHOTO | Riverhead's Bethany Peters, left, and Megan Conroy chased North Babylon's Val Amengual.
“It’s on their minds and it’s on their hearts, definitely,” said Janecek, who expects D’Alsace to be back on the sideline in time for the next game on April 25 against the Smithtown East Bulls.
Determined to make a good showing for the missing coach, the Blue Waves played hard, but North Babylon’s superior experience and talent showed. The Bulldogs fired in the game’s first nine goals within the opening 14 minutes 33 seconds, and forged an 11-2 lead by halftime.
“It feels great, like the gears are clicking,” North Babylon senior defenseman Emily Abma said. “Everything’s coming together.”
The Bulldogs were also smart about how to handle Carrera: Give her as little room to maneuver as possible. They held Carrera to only one goal from four shots, and that is an achievement. Carrera also won 15 of 21 draws.
Bethany Peters had a goal and an assist for Riverhead, which also received a goal from Stacy Griffing.
“I could honestly say that I’m happy with how we played because we’re a team and we picked it up and we never let down,” Carrera said. “We played our hearts out.”
Considering that Riverhead is in its first varsity season, McPartland was impressed by some of the things she saw from the Blue Waves.
“They’re definitely better than some of the teams that we have played this year that have been around for a while so I take my hat off to them,” she said. “They have a lot of athletes. I feel like this is not really a lacrosse town, but once they get rolling and stuff, they’ll be somebody that we talk about.”
Meanwhile, Carrera is a player to talk about. She has scored a team-leading 20 goals to go with seven assists this season, and has a bright future ahead of her.
Janecek, who said Carrera was a picture of total focus before the game, said he is most impressed by what Carrera does on the practice field.
“Her intensity in practice is the same type of intensity as when she plays,” he said. “She is very, very competitive, and she does go very hard, looking to make herself better and also looking to make her team better.”
Carrera, who has put up six-goal games against the Center Moriches Red Devils and the Copiague Eagles, said that like her teammates, she is learning every game. She said the best way to get away from extra defenders is to run, and she did miles of running during Thursday’s game.
Carrera seemed to take joy that her goal against North Babylon came from a penalty shot. Following Riverhead’s 17-4 defeat to the East Islip Redmen on Tuesday, she worked on her penalty shots. “It was dark out and raining, but I went home and I practiced my side-armed shots and everything,” she said.
What is the biggest lesson Carrera has learned this season?
She said it is to keep her head up and understand that statistics aren’t important.
“It doesn’t matter as long as I’m playing my hardest and playing my heart out,” she said. “That’s all that matters.”