Late in the second half of Tuesday’s Division III matchup at Riverhead High School, Shoreham-Wading River forward Alyssa Fleming headed toward the sideline, where coach Lea Calligeros greeted her with a quick tutorial.
Earlier in the half as Fleming chased down a ball along the left sideline, she turned into a Riverhead player and delivered a minor hip-check as she tried positioning herself to get the ball. The whistle promptly blew and the Blue Waves were granted possession.
“It’s all stick, not body,” Calligeros explained, even demonstrating the proper technique as Fleming attentively looked on.
For most players, by the time they’re in their senior year, such a lesson would be elementary.
But for Fleming, it’s been a crash course into field hockey, a sport she never played before the summer. A basketball and lacrosse player — two sports that allow, and require, much more physical contact — Fleming joined the Shoreham field hockey team this year for the first time at the prodding of a teammate, Lauren Lustgarten.
Before the season Calliegeros said she never had a player come out for the varsity for the first time as a senior. She knew Fleming was a good athlete, but never imagined the kind of production she could provide and her ability to grasp the game so quickly.
Fleming scored once in the Wildcats’ 3-0 win over Riverhead, upping her season total to a team-leading eight.
“I never even thought to pick up a stick and play,” Fleming said.
Known for her aggressive play and as a fiery competitor, Fleming has had to make the biggest adjustment in toning down some her physicality.
“That’s such an instinct,” Calligeros said, describing how Fleming will want to box someone out, whereas in field hockey a player has to keep the ball or her feet moving.
“That’s the next thing we’re working on,” Fleming said.
A four-year varsity lacrosse player who helped lead the Wildcats to state championships in her freshman and sophomore seasons, Fleming said it can be hard to break from her lacrosse habits.
“I feel like lacrosse makes me foul more,” she said. “I keep boxing out.”
The Wildcats will take it, though, as Fleming keeps churning out goals, creating yet another threat for teams to worry about when already trying to contain Debi-Michelle Jantzen and Kaitlyn Taddeo.
Fleming’s goal against the Blue Waves (2-3 Division III, 2-4 overall) came early in the second half to put the Wildcats ahead 2-0. She banged home a shot inside the left post, cleaning up a loose ball in front of the cage.
“I say I get the garbage goals, the balls where I’m just aggressive and go get them,” Fleming said.
She’s proven to have a knack for the goal. And scoring goals is a relatively new concept. In lacrosse she plays defense, the position she’ll most likely play in college when she joins Stony Brook University next year under new coach Joe Spallina.
“A lot of them were big goals, including today,” Calligeros said of Fleming’s scoring.
The Blue Waves didn’t make life easy for the Wildcats, who improved to 6-0 in Division III and 7-1 overall. The Blue Waves had a lot of chances in the circle, especially toward the end. Shoreham goalkeeper Kendal Conway made 11 saves.
Conway is in her first year starting in goal for the Wildcats.
“She’s getting experience under fire,” Calligeros said. “She had 11 saves today and they weren’t easy ones.”
Another save was credited to defender Kristin Torres, Calligeros said. Torres also had double duty on Tuesday taking the penalty corners for Shoreham because another player was out.
The only problem was for every corner, Torres had to sprint from her sweeper position all the way across the field to the end line where the offense was set up. And if the Blue Waves were able to transition the other way, she had to sprint back on defense.
“I’m like, ‘Kristin you got all your sprints in today,’ ” Calligeros said.
The game remained scoreless until the final minutes of the first half. On a penalty corner for the Wildcats the ball ended up out to Jantzen on the left side. She juked past a defender with a nifty move to set up a shot. The rebound came out in front and a penalty stroke was awarded for the Wildcats as Riverhead’s goalkeeper covered the ball for too long.
Taddeo took the stroke and drilled the ball inside the left post.
Alyssa Pearce made it 3-0 in the second half when she deflected a shot from Jantzen into the cage.
“We scored three but it felt like a very evenly played game,” Calligeros said. “I thought Riverhead played really well.”
It was a key win for the Wildcats before their big rivalry game Thursday against Miller Place. The Panthers are 5-1 in Division III.