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Girls Lacrosse: Riverhead’s rich offense shares the wealth

The Riverhead High School girls lacrosse team likes to share the wealth. These days, there’s a lot of wealth to share.

Just look at the standings. Entering Friday’s action, Riverhead sat proudly in third place, behind Northport and Ward Melville. Third among 22 Suffolk County Division I teams isn’t too shabby.

“It’s probably the first time” ever, coach Ashley Schandel said of her team’s third-place standing The Blue Waves were seeded sixth in the preseason. “We were seeded very high so we knew the schedule was going to be really tough,” she said, “but we’ve pulled off some big wins already, so it’s exciting.”

Riverhead believes its “We Over Me” team motto has a lot to do with the team’s success. Opposing defenses can’t zero in on one or two Riverhead players because there are others capable of firing in goals.

“If one’s being shut out, we have five more who can score,” Schandel said. “If you look at our stats on our team, we have multiple scorers and multiple solid defenders, so I can’t really pinpoint good players, which I think is the best thing for us because a lot of teams are stoppable because they have a really good player and then the team. We have the entire team, and I think that’s what’s really working for us. Everyone’s on the same page and they’re not looking to build their own stats, just trying to win the game.”

That team-first concept was perhaps best illustrated Friday when 12 Riverhead players scored goals and 10 had assists in a 17-3 blowout of Brentwood at the Pulaski Sports Complex in Riverhead.

Now that’s spreading out the scoring.

“We have a lot of diversity on our team,” junior defender Ella Malanga said after Riverhead’s sixth straight win. “As you saw today, 12 different people can score. The talent goes into our bench, so it’s really cool.”

Christine Thomas not only led the way with two goals and three assists, but she also had the goal of the day. It came on a flashy shot from behind her shoulder.

Kayla Kielbasa, Emma Conroy and Kyra Moos each had two goals and an assist, Delu Rizzo scored twice and Lauren Kenny had a goal and three assists. Riverhead outshot Brentwood, 19-3, in the first half (when it surged to an 11-0 lead) and 27-9 for the game. The Blue Waves also controlled 16 of 20 draws. Kielbasa and Rizzo split the draws for Riverhead in the first half and Melanie Vail handled most of them in the second half.

Two of Brentwood’s goals came from Ivanna Hernandez.

Referring to that scoring diversity, Schandel said: “That’s definitely what the whole season’s about, I think, and that’s why we’re being successful is because people are being less selfish. We don’t have a go-to one or two girls. They realize that us playing this way, we’re going to go further.”

Yes, life is good for Riverhead.

Last year the Blue Waves won their first playoff game in the program’s history. They would like to duplicate that this year with the richness of their talent and go further. If last season didn’t prove that Riverhead had arrived, this season has.

“We definitely have a lot of talent,” Schandel said. “It seems that every year we get better and better. I think they do want to go as far as we possibly can. We know our potential and what we’re capable of.”

Meanwhile, Riverhead still has some tough regular-season opponents remaining like West Islip, Northport and Commack.

“The pressure is on every single game,” said Schandel.

What are the team’s expectations?

Sophomore midfielder/attack Caleigh Kalmus said, “Definitely playoffs and who knows from there?”

In the meantime, the order of the day remains: Share the ball, share the wealth and share the wins.

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Photo caption: Riverhead’s Christine Thomas (two goals, three assists) maneuvering past Brentwood’s Christine Duartes before firing a shot on goal in the first half. (Credit: Bob Liepa)