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Field Hockey: Riverhead’s playoff ride reaches final stop

The Riverhead High School field hockey team traveled in style Friday.

It wasn’t an old yellow school bus that took the Blue Waves to Eastport-South Manor High School for their Suffolk County Class A quarterfinal.

When the large coach, with a big blue splashing wave painted on the side of the bus with the words “RIVERHEAD Blue Waves” and the school logo, pulls into a parking lot, it’s bound to draw attention. It’s an eye-catcher, that’s for sure.

“We call it the Bougie Bus,” said right midfielder Shannon Schmidt.

The “Bougie Bus” is a comfortable ride, too, with air conditioning and a bathroom.

After winning their first home playoff game (3-0 over West Islip three days earlier), Riverhead was afforded some luxury for its second playoff game. But the seventh-seeded Blue Waves reached the end of the road. Their playoff ride came to an end with a one-sided 4-0 loss to No. 2 Eastport in Manorville.

Last stop, Manorville!

Back on Sept. 1, Eastport and Riverhead opened the season with a game that went in Eastport’s favor, 4-1. Riverhead players said that in the time since, their team has made improvements.

But so has Eastport (14-1).

“We’ve definitely come a long way since that first game,” said Eastport coach Jenna Rickert.

In only its third year of existence, the Eastport team has made extraordinary progress. In its first season, Eastport reached the county semifinals. Last year the Sharks lost to Ward Melville in a county final, and they look as if they are headed back to the title game this year. They will play No. 6 Sachem East (11-5) in a semifinal Tuesday.

Riverhead (9-7), which reached the playoffs for a sixth straight year, had its hands full against Eastport. The Blue Waves managed only one shot on Paige Vinch’s goal.

Jessica Krewson picked up three assists for Eastport, which received goals from Kasey Choma, Bianca Bachisin, Brianna Lennon and Jameson Margiotta.

Riverhead had difficulty clearing its own half of the field while the defense of Ashley Columbus, Kim Ligon, Regan Montefusco, Laryssa Olsen and Sarah Rempe was kept busy in front of goalkeeper Victoria Stapon (10 saves).

“They were very tough,” Schmidt said of the Sharks. She added: “They’re very fast. They’re in really good shape, and they … don’t hold anything back.”

Considering that Riverhead didn’t have Ligon and left midfielder Christy Falisi available when the teams played on Sept. 1, some were expecting a closer result in the rematch. Riverhead knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game, though, and pulled center midfielder Rease Coleman back into a more defensive posture.

The game was only 2 minutes, 45 seconds old when Choma finished off a goalmouth scramble. Choma then assisted on Bachisin’s goal from a flurry off a penalty corner at 10:02. After Lennon made it 3-0 with 31.9 seconds left in the half, the besieged Stapon slammed her stick on the turf in frustration.

“Their passing is nice, and they’re just like lightning,” said Riverhead coach Cheryl Walsh-Edwards.

It was Eastport’s fourth straight win since its only loss, 3-2 to Ward Melville.

“I think it’s one of the best games that we’ve played,” Rickert said. “I think they have the playoff/postseason mindset and they know what it entails to get the job done.”

Ligon and Schmidt are both five-year varsity players and Riverhead’s only seniors along with Columbus, so the Blue Waves will have a lot of talent returning next year.

“We did so much for our school and in the future, things are only going to get better,” said Ligon.

Before heading back to their flashy bus, Walsh-Edwards said the closeness of her players made a difference this season.

“These are some of the best in Riverhead, they really are,” she said. “They’re great kids.”

Now, their season is over. It was a good ride while it lasted.

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Photo caption: Riverhead’s Shannon Schmidt tries to flip the ball forward, past Eastport-South Manor’s Samantha Moran. (Credit: Bob Liepa)