Field Hockey: Asthma aside, Riley provides breathless play

MASTIC BEACH — Sometimes Melodee Riley’s fine play can take a fan’s breath away. Other times, asthma takes Riley’s breath away.

In addition to the other pregame rituals that field hockey players go through, Riley has a routine of her own. Before taking the field, she breathes in from an inhaler.

That is usually the only visible evidence that Riley has asthma. Otherwise, one would never suspect that the Riverhead High School junior occasionally has trouble breathing. It certainly doesn’t show in her play. She runs like a gazelle and fights relentlessly for every ball that comes her way.

“It doesn’t hold her back from playing at all,” Riverhead Coach Cheryl Walsh-Edwards said. “It doesn’t inhibit her play. She goes out, she goes hard.”

If Riley needs a break during a game or practice, she’ll let Walsh-Edwards know.

“I take [the inhaler] right before the game and sometimes at halftime,” Riley said. “If it acts up, I have to come out. That’s about it.”

Riley didn’t have trouble with her asthma on Tuesday, as one might surmise by looking at the scorebook. She scored twice in a 4-0 defeat of the William Floyd Colonials, giving her a team-leading 10 goals for the season. After assisting on both of Riley’s goals, Justine Huysman scored a goal herself in the Suffolk County Division III game. Amanda Graziano put in the first goal 13 minutes 14 seconds into the contest.

Riverhead goaltender Allison Doscinski did not need to make a save for the shutout.

The game at William Floyd High School was played on a rain-softened field with modifications. A part of the field, off to the side of one of the goals, was deemed unplayable, closed off and marked by cones. With that corner of the field out of play, all corners and long hits had to be taken on the other side.

“We’ve never dealt with this before,” said Huysman, the senior forward who has six goals to her credit this season. “It was definitely more challenging without a corner of the field, but we worked around it.”

Rain fell in the second half, when Riverhead (4-3, 3-2) kept up the pressure on William Floyd (0-4, 0-4) and produced three goals, including Riley’s pair. Asthma or not, she finds a way to score.

“She’s a phenomenal athlete and she just goes really hard. That’s how she practices, too,” Walsh-Edwards said. “I think she’s having a really good season. She’s playing really aggressively. She has that competitive spirit and the will to win.”

Riley is quick to point out that her goals are the product of unselfish team play.

“I can’t do it without my teammates because we have to work together,” she said. “It’s not one person on the field.”

Huysman and Riley were both all-division players last year and have developed a nice passing chemistry with Sabrina Harris.

Huysman said the Blue Waves are growing as a team. Seeded seventh in the division, Riverhead is viewed as a team on the playoff bubble. Is reaching the playoffs a reasonable goal?

“I think it’s realistic,” Huysman said. “I think we have to work really hard, but I think we can make it there.”

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