Girls Lacrosse: Riverhead coach returns to sideline after wildfire forced him to evacuate home

BILL LANDON PHOTO | Riverhead senior Bethany Peters scored three goals for the Blue Waves Tuesday against Middle Country.

After a day off Sunday for Easter, the Riverhead girls lacrosse team expected to return to practice Monday afternoon in preparation for Tuesday’s Division I game against Middle Country.

As late afternoon approached, Riverhead coach Rich D’Alsace suddenly found himself in the middle of an evacuation zone as the sprawling wildfires continued gaining momentum, posing a greater risk to many people and their homes. Instead of running practice, D’Alsace was forced to leave his Manorville home, unsure of what it might look like the next time he returned.

D’Alsace, a 2000 Riverhead graduate, spent the night in Aquebogue with his fiancé at her apartment.

“My brother was evacuated, a bunch of my friends were affected,” he said. “They’re right in the middle of it. We all got out, we got all the pets out, so really that’s all that mattered.”

D’Alsace said one of his friends lost his home and others had fire damage. His house came out unscathed.

“It was definitely a tough night,” he said. “Didn’t get much sleep.”

D’Alsace returned to the sideline Tuesday to coach the Blue Waves in a 19-6 loss at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field. The Blue Waves fell behind 7-0 in the first 5:08, a sluggish start that D’Alsace partly attributed to the team being unsure of how to react to his situation.

“They didn’t really know how to be,” he said. “I think it took them out of there game for sure.”

At halftime, with the Blue Waves down by 10, D’Alsace tried to think of anything he could to snap his team out of it. He told the players he’d do anything they wanted to get them fired up.

One player suggested a cartwheel.

So a cartwheel it was.

“That’s the first and only time I’ll ever do that,” D’Alsace said.

Bethany Peters scored the first goal of the second half for Riverhead on a free position. But Middle Country came back with five straight goals over the next 10 minutes and the Blue Waves did not score again until Sabina Dorr converted a free position with 5:10 left.

Dorr, a transfer from St. Anthony’s, and Peters both scored three goals for Riverhead. Carolyn Carrera assisted on Dorr’s first goal of the game. Carrera came into the game with a team-high 19 goals. She was limited to no goals for the first time this season.

Carrera, a sophomore midfielder, was visibly frustrated late in the game when she came to the bench for a breather. D’Alsace said Carrera is an extremely focused and driven player who wants to do everything to help the team.

“She’s not frustrated about anyone in particular, it’s just she wants to see her teammates rewarded with a better game,” he said. “When it’s not, it’s frustrating, especially when she’s working so hard.”

Carrera did well on the draws for Riverhead (1-5, 0-5 Division I) to keep the possessions mostly even. If the Blue Waves didn’t gain possession on the draw, it usually came down to Middle Country (4-3, 3-2 Division I) fighting for the ground ball.

Dorr has provided an extra offensive threat for the Blue Waves this season. She now has 13 goals on the season.

D’Alsace said Dorr contributes in a lot of area’s besides scoring.

“Some games [she’s a] goal scorer, some games she plays really good, hard defense,” D’Alsace said. “She’s not always a leading scorer, but she’s certainly a big contributor.”

The Blue Waves split goalkeeping duties. Emily Parker started and Alycia Kratoville came in for the second half. Kratoville was dealing with an injury and illness to start the season and has been working back into form, D’Alsace said.

Freshman Nikki Ortega and senior Shannon Coleman each scored four goals for Middle Country. Ortega added three assists as well.

The Blue Waves will have another tough game Thursday on the road at West Islip.

“The last two or three games we played, even thought they haven’t been victories, have been really well played games,” D’Alsace said. “I expect to be inconsistent as a second-year varsity team … We’ll learn from it, we’ll go back at it and we’ll work on what we need to.”

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