The countdown has begun.
In just six days, the Riverhead Blue Waves will play the first high school girls varsity lacrosse game in their history. As the date nears for their inaugural season-opener against the Mattituck/Greenport/Southold Tuckers on Tuesday, the excitement builds for the Blue Waves.
“We’re all a little curious to see how it’s going to go,” Riverhead Coach Rich D’Alsace said. “The expectations are just to go out there and be competitive.”
Riverhead is making the jump to the varsity level after two junior varsity seasons. Last year’s JV team posted a winning record and produced 17 of the 20 players on the varsity roster.
Among the players who started on that JV team are: freshman middie Carolyn Carrera, sophomore attackman Megan Conroy, senior middie Stacy Griffing, junior defenseman Sabrina Harris, junior defenseman Vanessa Martin, junior middie/defenseman Emily Oruc, junior middie Kristin Peragine, junior attackman Bethany Peters, junior attackman Sandra Ruttkayova and junior defenseman Amy Yarborough. Alycia Kratoville and Emily Parker, who are both juniors, split time in goal.
Aside from Griffing, defenseman Sara Britt is the team’s only other senior, so this group will largely remain intact for at least a couple of years.
Also on the squad are: freshman middie/attackman Amber Kemperman, junior attackman Yevgeniya Komzyuk, freshman middie/attackman Justine Kundmueller, sophomore middie Joanna Kurzyna, sophomore middie/attackman Danielle McCabe and sophomore defenseman Rebecca Welker.
This group has skill, said D’Alsace. “We’re definitely ready to move up,” he said after practice on Tuesday.
It’s a plus for Riverhead that these players are, for the most part, familiar with each other. D’Alsace has coached all but one of them before.
One thing D’Alsace cannot emphasize enough to his players is the importance of communication.
“The goalie needs to be communicating with the defense,” he said. “The defense needs to be communicating with the middies. The middies need to be making sure that they’re on the same page with both the attack and the defense. Everybody needs to know the gameplan.”
Riverhead is seeded 22nd among the 23 teams in Suffolk County Division I. Regardless, D’Alsace believes his team might surprise some teams and win some games.
“I think we might be a surprise, but I don’t think too many teams are going to overlook us completely,” he said. “Any good coach is going to go into any game with a gameplan and expect competition.”
If there’s any pressure hovering over the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats, it would be hard to notice. For the four-time defending state champions, the beginning of practice on Tuesday was filled with plenty of laughter. After all, it was uniform day.
“They’re just excited to get uniforms, that’s all they’re worried about,” said Shoreham Coach Mary Bergmann, who became the fifth head coach since the program started in 2000. “It’s like Christmas every day here.”
Having fun is the early theme for Bergmann and assistant coach J. M. Jackson as they take over a program that has become one of the best not only in Suffolk County but all of New York. The Wildcats (19-2 last year) are the only Suffolk school to win a state title in girls lacrosse.
“We have a lot of fresh faces and they just want to follow in the footsteps of the girls that have come before them,” Bergmann said. “The program does have such a history to it.”
In addition to the states titles, the Wildcats have won five straight Long Island and seven consecutive county championships.
The Wildcats feature 13 new players this year after graduating a huge portion of last year’s team. Gone are the top four scorers who combined for 308 points.
The top returning scorer is senior Ali Davis, who scored 16 goals with 12 assists last year. She will play on attack along with junior Katie Boden and senior Corinne Wiederkehr, whose season was wiped out last year because of injury.
Junior Codi Mullen (23 points) returns in the midfield along with sophomore Jess Angerman (20 points), sophomore Alex Fehmel (11 points) and sophomore Paulina Constant (10 points).
Junior Alyssa Fleming and sophomore Meghan King will anchor the defense in front of Lily Vail between the pipes. Vail played on the JV team as a sophomore before spending last year in Denmark.
“She was a strong goalie and pretty much got right back into it,” Bergmann said.
Because of an increase in enrollment, the Wildcats will compete in Class B this year, meaning they will have to contend with the likes of Rocky Point, Sayville and Hauppauge for the county title.
“It’ll be exciting,” Bergmann said.
Joe Werkmeister contributed to this article.