The Riverhead Blue Waves weren’t singing in the rain, but there might have been some dancing going on.
Certainly, there was plenty of smiling and laughing on the Riverhead side as its girls lacrosse team celebrated the first Suffolk County quarterfinal win in the team’s eight-year history Saturday afternoon. Delu Rizzo’s goal off a return pass from Lauren Kenny with 30 seconds left in the second half snapped a tie, giving Riverhead a thrilling 13-12 victory over Middle Country at Nick DeCillis Field in Selden. With that, the fifth-seeded Blue Waves (11-5) move on to the Suffolk Class A semifinals against the Division I champion and No. 1 seed, Northport (17-0), on Wednesday.
“We made history,” Riverhead coach Ashley Schandel said. “We set our bar even higher.”
Last year Riverhead reached the playoffs for the first time and won its first playoff game over Huntington before losing to Smithtown East in a county quarterfinal. The Blue Waves took things a step further Saturday, but it wasn’t easy.
Riverhead edged Middle Country, 12-11, on April 9, and the rematch was similarly tight. The only times there were more than one goal separating the teams was when Riverhead held leads of 6-4, 11-9 and 12-9.
A four-goal spell by Megan Kielbasa (three goals, one assist, six ground balls, one interception), Kayla Kielbalsa, Megan Kielbasa again and Christine Thomas (three goals, two assists) gave Riverhead a 12-9 lead with 3:59 to go in the second half. But a three-goal lead in lacrosse can evaporate quickly. Very quickly.
“In lacrosse … the goals are quick so three minutes can feel like three hours on the field,” said Megan Kielbasa.
No. 4 Middle Country (11-5) did its best to make things uncomfortable for Riverhead. With offensive weapons like Jennifer Barry (43 goals, 30 assists this year) and Emily Diaz (34 goals, 28 assists), the Wolverines are a threat. Sophie Alois scored two of her five goals off feeds from Diaz and Barry, and Kate Timarky wove her way through the Riverhead defense after taking a pass from Barry for a score, tying it at 12-12 with 1:38 to go.
“We put ourselves into a bad situation towards the end of the game and we just kept our heads in it,” said Schandel.
Megan Kielbasa said: “We weren’t perfect, but we knew that we wouldn’t play perfect, but we played as close to perfect as we could. We prepared all week for it, and we were ready to win.”
The high drama in the rain continued.
After Rizzo, who had four goals and two assists, fired in the go-ahead goal, Barry won the draw and Middle Country called a timeout with 22 seconds left. When play resumed, a Timarky pass sailed through the goalmouth. Middle Country’s Sydney Corley collected the ball, but before she could do anything with it, time ran out.
It was celebration time for Riverhead.
“It was so surreal,” Megan Kielbasa said. “The girl had the ball low and I wasn’t sure how much time was left. I looked at the clock and it was five seconds and I started to panic and then started to celebrate. [There were] so many feelings at once.”
Riverhead defender Katie Goodale said: “I think we played amazing. This was one of the best [games] we ever played. Every single player on the team contributes something, and that’s what’s really important.”
Kenny contributed two assists and Sofia Salgado made eight saves for Riverhead.
Middle Country received two goals and four assists from Diaz as well as one goal and three assists from Barry, who also fielded eight loose balls and won 16 of 27 draws. Timarky had two goals and an assist and Sydney Juvelier scored twice.
But Riverhead survived to extend its season for at least another four days.
Goodale said, “I just love this team and I’m ready to make history again next week.”
Photo caption: The Riverhead Blue Waves pose for team photos following the first Suffolk County quarterfinal win in the team’s eight-year history. (Credit: Bob Liepa)