As a senior at Shoreham-Wading River in 2007, Brittany Davis capped her high school career the way every player dreams: holding a trophy as a state champion. Davis played an integral role in the early years of the Wildcats’ program, earning All-Long Island honors while ushering in a dynasty that saw the team win five state titles in six years.
Davis went on to play two years at Delaware University before transferring to Rutgers following an ACL injury. She stayed in the game as a coach after college, becoming an assistant coach at Central Connecticut and then Adelphi.
Now, Davis is back where it started.
The Wading River native became the fifth varsity coach in program history at Shoreham. She replaces Rachel Feirstein, who led the team to a 15-16 record over the past two seasons.
“It’s so overwhelming to be there in the best way possible, just because it’s such a tight-knit community,” Davis said. “It’s such an honor. Sometimes I have to pinch myself. I can’t believe that this is on me now.”
Davis got back into the program last spring as a JV coach and got involved in the youth program. When a varsity position opened up, she jumped at the opportunity to interview.
“I always feel like everything kind of happens for a reason,” she said.
Davis reconnected with former coach Bob Vlahakis, who developed the program into the dynasty. Vlahakis retired after the 2010 season following the Wildcats’ fourth straight state title and went on to coach at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue.
They looked back at old videos and pictures from the team’s glory days, igniting a greater fire under Davis for the upcoming season.
“It really kind of amped me up,” she said. “It made me realize what these girls really needed and what they were missing the past few years.”
The Wildcats are coming off a 9-7 season a year ago that ended with a playoff loss to Bayport-Blue Point. The Wildcats lost eight seniors to graduation, most notably five-year starting goalkeeper Lauren Daly.
But Davis will return veterans across the field, starting in the midfield with juniors Sophia Triandafils and Samantha Higgins. Senior Megan Daly returns to anchor the defense. Senior Isabella Cortes brings a wealth of experience to the attack.
One of the first orders of business for Davis after taking the job was to sit down with the team’s captains. The team’s motto this year is “win as one.”
“These girls have unbelievable skills,” Davis said. “I think it was just a matter of playing together.”
The days of referring to the Riverhead lacrosse program as “young” are over, coach Ashley King said. The Blue Waves may have a young squad this season after losing a core of seniors to graduation, but King doesn’t want that to be an excuse.
“It’s not an excuse any more to say we’re young and new Riverhead, because we’ve been in it for a while now and we can’t really take losing as an OK thing,” said the fourth-year head coach.
The Blue Waves hoped last year would be a breakthrough year. But the season finished with a 4-10 record, leaving the Blue Waves on the outside of any chance at the playoffs.
The Blue Waves will begin this season seeded 18th in Division I, so the team will face mostly the bottom half of the division. Tough games such as Ward Melville and Northport will present their challenges.
The good news for the Blue Waves starting the season has been the improved weather compared to last year, when snow covered the ground throughout the preseason. King said the better weather will allow the team to get in some scrimmages that didn’t happen last year.
“We’ll be able to play some competition that we haven’t seen in the past,” she said. “We’re going to get as much preseason practice as we can.”
The Blue Waves are led by senior Courtney Troyan, a returning midfielder who can contribute on both ends of the field.
“She’s doing a great job of kind of getting the team together through the midfield,” King said.
A player who quickly emerged last season was Kayla Kielbasa. As an eighth-grader, she opened the season a year ago with a 3 goal, 1 assist performance in a win over Copiague. Kielbasa, now a freshman, will be a key player in the midfield.
Rebuilding the defense from last year is one of the early-season challenges. Julia Thomas is one of the returners who has stepped up, King said.
“We’re kind of rebuilding and just getting everybody on the same page with all the new girls,” King said. “I think the younger girls, I don’t see there being any struggle with that. They’re all very good lacrosse players, we’re just at a point to get everybody on the same page.”
The Bishop McGann-Mercy girls are looking to take the next step in the young program after a winless season last year. The Monarchs went 0-13, but the good news is interest in the sport remains high.
Mercy athletic director Melissa Edwards said the team has 28 players on it under new coach Walter Flaherty, the former boys coach.