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Field Hockey: Riverhead wins its first home playoff game

Since it was making history in one way, why not make history in another?

The Riverhead High School field hockey team turned its first ever home playoff game, according to coach Cheryl Walsh-Edwards, into its first home playoff win Tuesday. Freshman center midfielder Rease Coleman played a part in all three goals as the seventh-seeded Blue Waves rolled, 3-0, over No. 10 West Islip in a Suffolk County Class A outbracket game at the Pulaski Sports Complex.

Junior right forward Kayla Kielbasa, who was credited with the game’s most unusual first goal, said that compared to a regular-season contest, a playoff game “doesn’t feel any different except the end buzzer and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, this actually happened.’ Just to be moving on is a great feeling.”

Riverhead (9-6) is moving on. The Blue Waves will play at No. 2 Eastport-South Manor (13-1) in a county quarterfinal Friday. Eastport beat Riverhead, 4-1, in the season-opener for both teams on Sept. 1.

“Cool stuff,” said Walsh-Edwards, whose team is making its sixth straight appearance in the playoffs. “Onward and upward. We’re going to go to ESM and see if we can get it done there.”

Riverhead got the job done Tuesday, taking the action to West Islip (7-8) in the early going. Coleman was a big part of it.

“She’s a competitor,” Walsh-Edwards said. “She wanted to win today and she’s going to do what’s necessary.”

The Blue Waves were rewarded for their early pressure with a strange goal 4 minutes, 29 seconds in. Kielbasa passed to Coleman, whose shot deflected off Kielbasa’s stick. The ball went straight up off goalie Heather Dreyer’s helmet, fell behind her and rolled across the goal line before defender Emily Rushton could stop it.

“It was pretty crazy,” said Coleman.

West Islip then enjoyed a period of sustained pressure in Riverhead’s half of the field before Angie Graziano gave the Blue Waves a 2-0 lead on a goal set up by Coleman and Kielbasa with 41.2 seconds left in the first half.

Coleman flipped in a penalty stroke 10:42 into the second half to seal the result.

“Rease is lighting it up out there,” said Kielbasa, who added: “Rease is all over the place. She’s this little energizer bunny that gets everywhere and we have no idea how. She’s doing amazing this year.”

Ironically, despite her offensive contributions, Coleman is known for being defensive-minded.

“She’s in the center of everything,” Walsh-Edwards said. “She plays the center mid spot so she’s kind of the hub of the wheel. Everything kind of centers around her. And she’s very defensive-minded. As a mid, you want them to go both ways, to play defense but also to play offense, but she is by nature very defensive-minded.”

Victoria Stapon made six saves for the shutout.

Riverhead held an 18-6 superiority in shots on goal and a 16-5 advantage in penalty corners.

“I think that we dominated today,” Walsh-Edwards said. “I think that West Islip had some good things that they did, but I think that we definitely handled ourselves and definitely put the pressure on.”

Riverhead’s prize for victory is a rematch with Eastport. The Blue Waves are the underdogs, but Coleman said, “Any team is beatable.”

Kielbasa said: “We’re ready to play them. We’ve adjusted, like I said, throughout the season and we know what to expect and we’re ready to go out there and give them a really good game.”

Who knows? Riverhead may have some more history to write.

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Photo caption: Riverhead’s Shannon Schmidt advancing the ball down the right wing in the second half while West Islip’s Victoria Devlin tries to stop her. (Credit: Bob Liepa)