The little things added up for Shoreham-Wading River against West Babylon Friday, just not the way the Wildcats had wanted.
Questionable shot selection.
They added up to a 12-6 loss in a much-anticipated encounter between two of the better Suffolk County Division II girls lacrosse teams at Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field in Shoreham.
“We’re evenly matched teams, but we got into our own heads and they kept putting in goals,” said Isabella Meli, who paced the Wildcats with three goals. “We slipped deeper and deeper and shot ourselves down.”
It made for a long afternoon.
Senior midfielder Mikayla Dwyer, who scored a goal, probably said it best.
“It was one of those games where we didn’t get to our flow,” she said. “We’re very strong offensively. I just feel like we never had a chance to set our offense. It was like we had the ball for one second and it was back on defense. We would make a good stop defensively, then we couldn’t get the ball back up the field.”
That scenario happened too many times for the Wildcats (5-4, 5-3), especially when they tried to get back into the game in the second half. They appeared to be trying too hard.
Coach Brittany Davis felt Shoreham’s problems were more mental than physical.
“We have a real young team, so it’s important that keeping the morale is No. 1,” she said. “We’re having a tough time with some mental toughness. It’s OK to be down. Teams are down all the time. I think just getting over that hump stands in our way.
“At the end I don’t think West Babylon was doing anything special or crazy we couldn’t get. I think we stood in our own way.”
It started promising enough. A minute and 46 seconds into the game Meli gave Shoreham a 1-0 lead before the Eagles (8-1, 8-1) countered behind Kayla Downey (first-half hat-trick) and Hannah Heller (four goals) before Maddie Farron equalized at 2-2 with 18:42 remaining in the opening half.
“Great team,” Davis said. “We held them to a great score in the beginning, but once they started to pull away, we started to crumble from the inside out.”
West Babylon struck for three consecutive goals, by Downey, Alyssa Apuzzo and Heller to grab a 5-2 advantage as the visitors extended their lead to 7-3 at the half.
“They have a lot of fast girls and adjusting to a team that is a lot faster or is as fast as us is a challenge,” Meli said.
Shoreham had all sorts of problems with the speedy Heller twins. Hannah’s dodging ability made her one tough player to handle. Her sister Emily (two goals) had similar speed and won 11 of 20 faceoffs, including 7 of 11 in the first half when West Babylon set the tone.
“They dodge into space they don’t want to go into, space they do,” Davis said. “They play very much like Mikayla does, dodging. But there’s two of them.”
Davis used three faceoff players against Emily Hannah — Meli, Jenna Lesiwicz and Erin Trinadafuks — in the opening half.
“Working on draws is something we have been doing non-stop,” she said. “It’s been an uphill battle for us, figuring out the right personnel.”
The Wildcats can talk some solace that they won’t face the Eagles again this season. West Babylon is a Class B team, Shoreham a Class C side.
“From now on, we’ve got to work harder in practice,” Dwyer said. “Just go back to the basics, catching and throwing. Don’t force passes. Pace our shots. Possession’s key. We don’t understand it at times. I don’t think any of the teams we lost to were technically better than us. We just beat ourselves on the little mistakes.”
Davis certainly isn’t giving up. In her postgame talk to her team, she mentioned the positives and that “working a little bit smarter than harder would be our goal.”
“And then for those younger kids to realize I’m never going to pull you off the field for trying something new,” she said. “I want you to take that risk because there’s so much benefit finding success in that risk. If you never do it, you’re never going to learn.”