MUSKETEERS 3, BLUE WAVES 2
It’s not like Riverhead coach Hassan Olowu didn’t expect the physical play to pick up in the second half Tuesday afternoon against Central Islip. If anything, he would have been shocked if it didn’t.
The Blue Waves led 2-0, controlling play for most of the game, and forcing the Musketeers into a desperate position to get back into the game.
“They needed to impose their game, they needed to get their offensive players more possession,” he said. “So we knew the second half was going to be more about the one-on-one battles and we did the best we could to make sure that all the players that we knew could cause problems for us were contained. For the most part we did do that.”
As the momentum began to sway toward Central Islip (5-1) midway through the second half, the Musketeers finally broke through with about 15 minutes left when Maria Vela converted a long pass from near midfield. Vela was open in front at the left of the net and knocked the pass perfectly inside the far post to beat Riverhead goalkeeper Carolyn Carrera.
The Musketeers kept the pressure on, stringing together two more goals less than a minute apart to cap a stunning comeback and walk away from Riverhead High School with a 3-2 victory on a rainy afternoon.
“It was definitely our most physical game,” Olowu said of playing Central Islip. “In terms of both physicality and maybe offensive skills, it was about as good as it gets.”
The Musketeers tried to rough up Riverhead forward Ashley Drozd whenever she got the ball with a chance to make a play. Drozd still finished with an assist and goal while peppering the Central Islip goal with shots all game.
Drozd, who has 10 of the team’s 12 goals this season, had most of her shots on goal come from long distance.
“They kept her deep,” Olowu said. “They were defending very high. It was kind of difficult I think to get down the middle, but that was true of both teams.”
Olowu said Drozd had been determined from the beginning of the season. In the Blue Waves’ previous game against Amityville, she scored every Blue Wave goal in a 3-1 win. Against Hampton Bays Sept. 22 she scored a career-high four goals.
“She’s on fire right now,” Olowu said.
Drozd helped put the Blue Waves (3-2-1) on the board first in the opening half with a nifty move in the right corner to beat a defender and a send a pass into the box. Senior Kristina Stapon was in perfect position in front of the goal and headed it inside the right post for her first goal of the season.
Later in the half Drozd converted a free kick from about 25 yards out to make it 2-0.
“I’m spoiled with all the nice goals she’s scored,” Olowu said. “She doesn’t score ugly goals. All her goals are pretty.”
The Musketeers came after Riverhead in a hurry after breaking through with their first goal. Alexa Spinelli drilled a ball off the crossbar — the second Central Islip shot to hit the crossbar — and the Blue Waves couldn’t clear the ball. Aysha Shirley ended up scoring the tying goal on a rebound after Carrera dove to her left to make a save.
Less than a minute later a deep free kick from the left side by Danielle Doyle gave the Musketeers their first lead of the game. Doyle drilled the ball toward the far post and Olowu said Carrera got screened in front. The ball bounced in front of Carrera and right into the goal.
“Seeing her teammate had cut in front of her, [Carrera] let the ball go,” Olowu said. “When it bounced, it skidded right over them both. It happens.”
Olowu said Carrera, a captain along with Drozd, has been strong for the Blue Waves all season in goal, calling her “Miss Dependable.”
“She takes care of the team even when we coaches are not here,” he said. “She’s our voice on the field.”
Overall it’s been a much different season this year for Riverhead. The Blue Waves scored four goals total all of last season playing in League IV. But a move down to the developmental league in League VIII has given them an opportunity to compete against programs of similar caliber.
While the competition isn’t as a strong, being able to get some wins has given the girls confidence, Olowu said.
“We work on tactical a lot in practice,” he said. “The girls are picking it up very quickly and getting to implement it in games so I’m sure they’re really happy.”