Riverhead takes its lumps in first season

RIVERHEAD—There are no manuals on how to guide a team through the ups and downs of its first year of varsity competition.

You just go with your gut, keep your head up and roll with the punches.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO  |  Junior Emily Oruc scored one goal for Riverhead Monday against Smithtown East.
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Junior Emily Oruc scored one goal for Riverhead Monday against Smithtown East.

The Riverhead High School girls lacrosse team has taken more than its share of punches this season. But the Blue Waves have kept it positive as they did after their 19-4 loss to Smithtown East in a Suffolk County Division I match on Monday.

“Our goal this year is to play as hard as possible and not let this record get to us,” senior co-captain Stacy Griffing said.

“As a team, everyone’s got your back,” junior co-captain Kristin Peragine said. “I just try to keep my head high. If we do bad on a pass or something, we just shake it off, rub it off the shoulder and just come out there and fix it the next time.”

That’s all coach Rich D’Alsace can ask from the Blue Waves (1-6 Division I, 2-6 overall).

“I’m a little disappointed in the outcome,” he said. “What seems to be the theme is that we spend time working on our weakness and that rises up and another level kind of drops in another area.

“Part of that is just being a young team. Part of that is that the girls haven’t had much time having the sticks in their hands. Their stick skills are lacking. Unfortunately, time is the biggest thing, time and effort to get those stick skills to improve, which is going to make a big difference. That’s to be expected. I’m happy with the effort that they put in.”

D’Alsace twice called timeouts to calmly explain things to the Blue Waves. Despite the questionable stick handling, he never yelled at his players at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field.

“The same thing goes with teaching or coaching,” he said. “Every day is a clean slate. I have to take that approach. We come in, we play a game, we learn from it. What did we do good? What did we do bad? We got out and we play another game or go to another practice and we go from there.

“You can’t stay too high on the highs or too lows on the lows. You need to keep the even keel and right now that even keel is a little lower than we need it to be. But me being upset or me being frustrated is not going to help us get better. My goal for this season is to be competitive and grow. There are games where we are competitive and there are games that I wish we were more. But the effort is there and we’ll get there. I’m confident of that.”

Monday’s theme was to work on defense.

“Our defense gas been doing a lot of work on slides and marking up cutters,” D’Alsace said. “The score might not reflect it so much, but they did play better. They certainly have been playing better on defense. Their spacing on the clears was better. But again, it’s that stick skill of making that catch. They were in the right spots sometimes, but they didn’t quite make the catch.”

It showed in the match.

Smithtown East (3-5, 2-5) grabbed a 2-0 lead in the opening 90 seconds. Danielle McCabe cut the lead in half with 21:11 remaining in the half. By the time Griffing scored with 8:21 left, the visitors had an 11-2 advantage. Emily Oruc and Carolyn Carrera also scored for the Blue Waves.

For East, sophomore Elizabeth Pellechi finished with career-highs in goals (six), assists (five) and points (11). Junior Marisa Grennan added four goals.

“As a team, we need to go out there and give 100 percent every single time,” Peragine said. “I know we do a lot there and we give it our all. Just as long as we’re being competitive and working our hardest, that’s all you can do really.”

After the game, the Blue Waves took their usual half-mile march back to the high school the same way they had come — walking two by two.

“We’re having fun as a team,” Griffing said. “We have no drama. We are all positive. We came out knowing that we might not have the best record. But we’ve got to walk out of here with a smile on our faces.”