JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River senior Lauren Lustgarten carries the ball up field late in the game Tuesday against Babylon.
WILDCATS 8, PANTHERS 7
There are games that define a team’s season, that serve as a turning point, a moment where everything clicks. Usually those type of games come late in the season when the playoffs are looming closer.
“At Shoreham we always say we want to have one defining win in a season,” said Wildcats coach Mary Bergmann. “I said yesterday hopefully tomorrow will be an early defining win for us so we know we can do it.”
Against Babylon the Wildcats faced one of the two teams that will ultimately stand in their way come playoff time in Class C. And the Panthers, behind a methodical offense, strong draw control and the talent of Shelby Fredericks, gave the Wildcats everything they could handle Tuesday afternoon at Shoreham-Wading River High School.
The Wildcats rallied for an 8-7 victory by getting two goals from senior Paulina Constant in the final 2:14.
“To me this game was just as important as winning a playoff game,” Bergmann said.
The victory keeps the Wildcats’ record perfect at 4-0 in Division II and gives them the early advantage in the all-important race for the No. 1 seed. Finishing first would allow the Wildcats to avoid having to play both Mount Sinai and Babylon (5-1, 3-1 Division II) in the playoffs.
It was a frustrating afternoon for long stretches for Shoreham as the Panthers dominated time of possession thanks to their ability to win draws. A combination of the Panthers’ patience on offense and the Wildcats’ ability to close scoring chances defensively led to long stretches with Babylon holding possession.
The Wildcats trailed by a goal when senior Alyssa Pearce got denied up close on a shot that Babylon goalie Emily Guerra snatched with 7:51 left. Babylon got out in transition and ran four minutes off the clock before finally turning it over on a pass that sailed off the sideline.
The Wildcats quickly went to work with Constant muscling her way past two defenders to score near the right post with 2:14 left.
Draws were a problem all afternoon for the Wildcats, but when they needed to win one, they got it. Senior Meredith Bushell took the draw after the game-tying goal. After a long scramble, junior Shannon Rosati emerged with possession.
And with 1:18 left, Rosati eluded a double team to find Constant for the game-winning goal.
“Both goals were setup plays by my teammates,” Constant said. “The second one was just a great assist. Shannon drew the double and it left me open. She did all the dirty work.”
Constant and Rosati both finished with 3 goals. It was Constant’s third hat trick in four games and she now has 11 goals on the season.
“I think she’s really stepping up and giving a leadership role,” Bergmann said. “Those two goals, that changed the game right there. We needed those shots. If we didn’t get those I’d be they would have tried to stall for four-five minutes.”
With the Wildcats not getting as many chances offensively as they’re used to, they needed a big game from sophomore Lauren Daly in goal. Daly’s save total didn’t jump off the page (7), but she came up with several tough stops that kept the Panthers from extending their lead by more than a goal.
Babylon led 6-5 when Daly made a terrific save midway through the second half on Fredericks, who led Babylon with 2 goals and 4 assists.
“She had some great saves,” Bergmann said. “Especially in the first half she had some point-blank shots on her.”
Daly stopped two free position shots in the final minute of the first half to keep the game tied at 4.
The Wildcats were without starting midfielder Jessica Angerman, who was out with a sore knee. Bergmann said they wanted to give Angerman a game to rest.
“Luckily we have the other three middies that are on her line and then we have another group of middies, which we didn’t play as much today.”
Angerman usually contributes on draws and the Wildcats missed her presence there. The Panthers had a 7-2 advantage in the first half on draws, but the teams were even (4-4) in the second after the Wildcats won the final three draws.
“Draw controls were big for us,” Constant said. “We didn’t do too hot the first half, but the second half we really came together.”
The schedule doesn’t get any easier going forward as the Wildcats travel to Sayville Friday before hosting Eastport-South Manor Monday.
“You can’t put your guard down, because everyone is coming for Shoreham,” Bergmann said.