Before Riverhead can fully devote its attention to the high school girls lacrosse playoffs — the second season, if you will — it still has some business to attend to: closing out the first season.
The Blue Waves have won eight of their last nine games, with two regular-season games remaining — a home game against Northport, which started Monday in first place in Suffolk County Division I with 13-0, 11-0 records, and a contest at Commack Friday.
“It does sound impressive,” midfielder Emma Conroy said of the 8-1 run. “You know, we’re just being a team together and we’re staying positive and we’re going win after win and we’re just looking to the next game.”
Riverhead, which entered Monday’s game in sixth place in 22-team Division I, maintained its fine form by running through Longwood, 14-6, at the Pulaski Sports Complex in Riverhead.
Riverhead has outscored its opponents, 112-73, during the nine-game span. The only blemish during this stretch was a 16-6 loss to West Islip last Wednesday.
“It’s amazing,” said coach Ashley Schandel.
Riverhead (9-4, 9-3), which reached the playoffs last year for the first time in team history and advanced to the Suffolk Class A quarterfinals before losing to Smithtown East, has high hopes to go even further this time around. Does that make it hard not to think ahead to the playoffs?
“It is because you worry about what teams you’re playing and who you are going to see next, but I think the most important thing is just one game at a time and working hard each minute we’re on the field,” said attacker Christine Thomas.
One of the reasons for Riverhead’s high standing has been its multiple offensive threats.
“I think that’s why we’re successful, is because all of our offensive players can score,” Schandel said. “All of our defensive players play solid. They all cause turnovers.”
Monday’s game was a case in point. Kayla Kielbasa (four goals, one assist), Conroy (three goals, one assist), Delu Rizzo (three goals, one assist) and Thomas (two goals, three assists) gave Longwood (6-8, 4-8) a lot to worry about. And, if that wasn’t enough, Megan Kielbasa had a goal and two assists while Lauren Kenny provided three assists. Riverhead’s defense caused 15 turnovers and goalies Sofia Salgado, Leah Zenk and Rachel Bornstein combined for eight saves.
“We played as a team, and that’s all we can ask for,” said Thomas.
Riverhead charged out to a 10-1 lead and never looked threatened. Even when Longwood’s Brianna Dillon, Christen Lapple, Carolyn Formichelli and Hannah Fernandes struck for successive second-half goals, cutting Riverhead’s lead to 10-5, the Blue Waves had a response. Conroy, Thomas and Rizzo tallied for more separation.
“I just like how we work well together,” Conroy said. “We can come out of bad situations and we can make it look good.”
Young players like Conroy and Thomas, both sophomores, have brought spark to the offense.
Schandel called Conroy a hidden gem. “Her name’s not always out there,” the coach said. “People don’t really know too much about her, but she’s in there. She’s a threat, a hidden threat, I guess you could say. She does great at cutting. She knows how to see the field, read her defenders. The girls seem to find her on the field, but she works a hundred percent and I couldn’t say anything bad about her.”
As for Thomas, Schandel said: “She’s a big part of our offensive play. The thing that’s great about her is she’s unselfish, so she wants to give up the ball and she wants to create opportunities for other players.”
The playoffs are right around the corner for what could be the best girls lacrosse team Riverhead ever had.
Said Conroy, “When we work together we can just do great things.”
Photo caption: Riverhead’s Lauren Kenny, left, and Delu Rizzo try to impede Longwood’s Janelle Brown in the first half. (Credit: Bob Liepa)