Two dramatic shootout victories had taken the Riverhead High School field hockey team to this, the Suffolk County Class A quarterfinals and the ultimate test.
The Blue Waves knew what they were getting into when they stepped off the bus in East Setauket on Monday. Their top-seeded opponent, Ward Melville, is the defending county champion, having reached last year’s state final. Ward Melville coach Shannon Sioss believes the Patriots have won eight county titles in the past 14 years.
Ward Melville’s game is a joy to behold. Intricate passing. Excellent stick skills. Aerial passes. Organization. The Patriots have it all.
That explains why Ward Melville (17-0) is the only undefeated team in Suffolk.
So, that is what Riverhead was up against. The Blue Waves found that Ward Melville was every bit as good as advertised, and the 6-1 final score reflected that.
Ward Melville will host either No. 4 Northport or No. 5 Sachem North in a semifinal Thursday.
It took Ward Melville only 7 minutes, 52 seconds to solve the Riverhead defense, with Kate Mulham redirecting in a ball from Kassidy Rogers-Healion. Exactly 60 seconds later, Kerri Thornton made it 2-0, striking off a feed from her sister, Kaitlin Thornton.
The Patriots were off and running. It was 4-0 by halftime as Lexi Reinhardt added a pair of goals on assists by Mulham and Kaitlin Thornton.
Ward Melville added to its tally when Kiera Alventosa batted a ball out of the air and past goalie Grace Dow (10 saves).
Reinhardt then set up a score by Rogers-Healion, making it 6-0.
No. 9 Riverhead (10-7) didn’t manage a shot on goal until Shannon Schmidt knocked in her fourth goal of the season with 8:42 left. The goal came after a penalty corner. Riverhead’s Rease Coleman drove a shot that goalie Bella Nelin (one save) kicked out. Coleman then got her stick on the rebound and the ball took a deflection across to Schmidt, who made no mistake with an unguarded goal facing her.
As one-sided as the game was, Ward Melville could have scored more. Kerri Thornton sent a shot off the right post early in the second half and Dow made a nice sprawling save on Hannah Lorenzen late in the game.
Riverhead reached the playoffs for a fifth straight year by topping Huntington in a shootout in the final regular-season game. Then, on Friday, the Blue Waves found themselves in a shootout once again, defeating No. 8 West Babylon, 3-2, in a shootout in their first playoff game. Schmidt had tied the score at 1-1 with her goal 3:20 from the end of the second half. The teams played two goalless 10-minute overtimes before Kayla Kielbasa, Coleman and Schmidt made good on their shootout attempts.
Photo caption: Riverhead’s Kayla Kielbasa tries to advance the ball while Ward Melville’s Jillian Bove closes in on her. (Credit: Bob Liepa)