When the opportunity to join a newly formed developmental league came in 2012, the Riverhead Blue Waves were one of a handful of teams across Suffolk County willing to join. The Blue Waves were coming off a season where they scored four goals total.
The plus side to the developmental league was a chance to compete against teams on a similar talent level. The downside was no chance at the playoffs; no teams from the developmental league could advance into the postseason.
At the time, the Blue Waves believed the experience would pay dividends in the years to come.
Now three years later, the majority of those players have cycled out of the program and the Blue Waves still find themselves no closer toward a competitive program.
On Friday afternoon, the Blue Waves faced an opponent that had been in a similar boat not that long ago. In 2012, Newfield was one of the teams in League VIII, known as the developmental league.
As Friday’s game showed, the teams have grown worlds apart. Newfield dominated the Blue Waves, 13-0, at Riverhead High School in a League III match that more resembled a football score in the end.
The Wolverines, a year after playing a mostly young squad, have their sights set on reaching the playoffs this year. The Blue Waves will be back at square one, trying to fit the pieces together after opening the season with two losses by a combined score of 21-0.
“It’s a young group and they got to overcome adversity and physical games,” said Riverhead’s first-year varsity coach, Brian Cunningham. “There’s ability there. We had a 10-15 minute stretch where we challenged them and they responded. But the game’s longer than 15 minutes.”
Newfield’s not exactly a team loaded with veterans. The team features five juniors, six sophomores, a freshman and an eighth grader.
Junior Kristen Prevosto and sophomores Taylor Regensburger and Emily Diaz each scored two goals in the first half as the Wolverines went ahead 6-0. The lopsided score appeared to take its toll on the Blue Waves, as the goals came even easier in the second half. The low point for Riverhead came midway through the second half, when eighth-grader Sierra Rosario found an unobstructed path through the defense toward the goal to score her first varsity goal.
“We lost one of our key seniors last game to injury on the defensive side and I think you saw that with miscommunication,” Cunningham said.
The Blue Waves hope their young core, which features two freshmen and three eighth-graders in the starting lineup, can be the building blocks of a rebuilding program.
“We have a good crop at the middle school right now,” Cunningham said. “Soccer-first type players.”
He added that more help could be on the way from the JV sooner than later from players the coaches didn’t want to push too hard onto varsity this year.
“This program hasn’t done great of late and that’s an understatement,” he said. “We just keep pushing forward.”
Photo Caption: Riverhead freshman Anastasia Stapon is one of five underclassmen playing on varsity this season. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)