CLASS C COUNTY FINALS | WILDCATS 11, MUSTANGS 7
During their run of seven straight county titles and four state championships, Shoreham-Wading River could always count on a solid goalkeeper to anchor the defense. And when the playoffs started, and the intensity ratcheted up, that’s when the Wildcats’ goalie would always seem to elevate her play to another level.
Shoreham freshman Lauren Daly grew up during the Wildcats’ heyday watching the likes of Michelle Verbeeck and Erin McMullan as they solidified Shoreham’s championship defense. All the while she knew she wanted to one day be a part of that.
“I still don’t believe it’s real,” Daly said of becoming the next goalkeeper, keeping the tradition alive. “Being able to come up big like they did in the past is great.”
When the Wildcats needed a big game, Daly delivered an epic performance with 15 saves Thursday afternoon to help the Wildcats reclaim their spot atop Class C.
The Wildcats (14-3) knocked off defending county champion Mount Sinai, 11-7, at Dowling Sports Complex to secure an eighth championship in the last nine years. Last season ended in a county final loss to Hauppauge as a Class B school. Now the Wildcats meet Nassau champion North Shore at noon Sunday for the Long Island title back at Dowling.[nggallery id=376 template=galleryview]
The pressure of playoff lacrosse is hardly new for Daly. She started all three playoff games last season as a rookie eighth-grader and performed admirably in each game.
“I know going into the game that there’s going to be a lot of shots, especially in a county championship, and to just be prepared for them,” Daly said.
The Mustangs (13-5) tested her early with a barrage of free position shots. Shoreham coach Mary Bergmann said she thought Mount Sinai came out shooting high or wide on their first shots.
“Then they started getting them on goal and Lauren was just coming up with huge saves,” she said.
Thanks to Daly and the defensive core of Meghan King, Alyssa Fleming, Patricia Miller and Meredith Bushell, the Wildcats held a 4-3 lead at halftime before the offense erupted in the second half.
Mount Sinai scored the first goal of the second half to tie the game before Shoreham went on a 6-0 run in just over six minutes. Before that point, neither team had led by more than a goal.
Sophomore Shannon Rosati started the run with a goal to put Shoreham ahead 5-4. Junior Jessica Angerman capped it off with a free position goal with 14:28 left and just like that the Wildcats led 10-4.
“I think both teams gave a good fight,” Bergmann said. “It’s just that when we have the ball we were executing, at least in the second half. Once we started rolling with those couple of goals I think we had the power on our side of the field and it was putting the pressure on Mount Sinai.”
Seven goals for Mount Sinai equaled a season low. Shoreham held Mount Sinai scoreless for 12 straight minutes in the second as the lead grew.
Last year the Wildcats came into county championship game as underdogs against Hauppauge, knowing that even with a victory, the season would likely end a few days later against a powerhouse Garden City team.
“I think we were nervous last year,” said junior Alex Fehmel, who scored three goals Thursday. “We were more confident in ourselves as a team as opposed to last year I think.”
The Wildcats have developed into a team that rarely relinquishes a lead once they get it.
“When they get that lead, they’re holding onto it,” Bergmann said. “So it’s a good comfort level walking into the next playoff game knowing we’ve been pretty consistent with keeping leads.”
Even as the lead ballooned in the second half, the Wildcats weren’t taking anything for granted. Only one night earlier North Shore came back from six down to beat Cold Spring Harbor in the Nassau C championship.
Fehmel said they also thought back to the University of Florida-Syracuse game in the Division I semifinals played at Stony Brook where the Orange came back from seven down in the second half to win.
“It really showed us anything is possible,” Fehmel said. “That’s why we didn’t let up at the end. We know Mount Sinai’s a team that can come back.”
The Mustangs never really threatened in the second half once Shoreham got rolling. The Wildcats had a 14-6 advantage on draws, a huge key in helping expand the lead and then maintain it. Angerman took the majority of draws for Shoreham and plucked several out of the air herself once the ball went up.
Bergmann said winning draws has been a strongpoint for the Wildcats all season.
“I said I know we can win the majority of draw controls and then it’s just a matter of capitalizing on the fact we’re winning draw controls, which we didn’t do the last time we played them,” she said.
The Wildcats had a balanced offensive attack, led by three apiece from Fehmel and Rosati. Senior Katie Boden, who won her fourth county title since joining varsity as an eighth-grader, added two goals.
–Several Shoreham underclassmen played alongside Mount Sinai players at a tournament at Stony Brook University recently designed for recruiting. Fehmel was one of the players who played on a team that included Mount Sinai players.
“I love them,” she said. “We’re all friends. That’s why it’s fun. It’s a tough game. They always put up a good fight.”
–The Wildcats avenged one of their three regular season losses. Mount Sinai won 8-5 in early April to hand the Wildcats their first loss.
–The Wildcats had over two weeks off before the championship game while Mount Sinai had to play Babylon in a semifinal game. Bergmann said the conditioning work that the team put in during the break played a huge factor in Thursday’s win.
“If we had that semifinal game I don’t know if we would have had the conditioning coming into this game to really pull off the type of game that we did,” she said.
–The Mustangs got freshman Kasey Mitchell back for the playoffs. A huge player in last year’s run to the state finals, Mitchell tore her ACL during the winter playing basketball and was expected to miss the entire spring season. She had one goal in Thursday’s game.
–The first eight goals of the game were all scored by different players.
–Both teams could find themselves facing off again for the county finals next year. Mount Sinai started one senior while Shoreham started three.
–The win was the third county championship for Shoreham in two days. The boys lacrosse and baseball teams won county titles Wednesday. Both beat Bayport-Blue Point. It’s the first time all three have won county titles in the same year.