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Field Hockey: Graziano raises her game by going low

Just how far the Riverhead High School field hockey team goes this year may very well depend on how low the Blue Waves can go.

Every now and then Angie Graziano’s coaches remind her to get low and position herself by the post, ready to knock a shot on goal.

Despite the good work done by Riverhead’s midfielders in the first half, Graziano and the rest of the Riverhead forwards weren’t getting sticks on what coach Cheryl Walsh-Edwards called “phenomenal” feeds into the circle in the first half of Saturday’s Suffolk County Division I game against Sachem North.

The message got through at halftime, though. Graziano was involved in all three goals, scoring two and assisting on the other, as Riverhead pulled away to a 3-0 victory in its home opener at the Pulaski Sports Complex.

What better way to celebrate National Field Hockey Day?

Graziano said, “My coaches were actually kind of mad at me because I wasn’t getting to the post in time, and then I finally got to the post and they were like, ‘See what happens?’ ”

Good things can happen when you attack the goal.

“Angie’s a strong player and you always hear us yelling at her to get low, get low because she’s so tall, too, and sometimes, you know, she’s standing up,” Walsh-Edwards said. “We’re like, ‘Get low, get low and move to the ball and you’re going to do good things.’ But, yeah, she had a great game today.”

Graziano is one of Riverhead’s four senior co-captains, Christy Falisi, Kayla Kielbasa and Sarah Rempe being the others. All four are four-year varsity players on what may be the best Riverhead team in decades, if not ever. So expectations are high. Very high.

Riverhead (2-1, 2-1) is loaded with nine seniors and has lost only two starters from last year’s Suffolk Class A quarterfinal squad.

That has earned the Blue Waves the No. 5 seed in the division. With that comes a challenging schedule, but Riverhead appears to be up to the challenge.

“I think we can handle it,” Graziano said. “The best thing about this team is definitely the energy. We bring a lot of energy. We have pasta parties the night before. Getting ready for the games, we’re always hyping each other up and if someone does something wrong on the field, it’s never negative. It’s just, ‘Next time you got it.’

“We all play with our hearts and we’re smart with the ball, and at the end of the day we’re all family. If we do have any high expectations, I feel like we can live up to them, like it’s not a problem, so there’s no pressure.”

But there was plenty of pressure on Sachem North goalkeeper Megan Biase, who made 11 saves. Riverhead dominated in shots on goal, 14-2, and penalty corners, 13-4.

“I think we dominated the first half, too, but we just couldn’t score,” Walsh-Edwards said. “We had opportunities. Sometimes we were standing up in the circle, they weren’t really moving to the ball and just lacked the aggression. We didn’t start off using our skills. The ball was off our stick a lot and Sachem North was picking it up.”

The Blue Waves listened to their coaches at halftime, adjusted and goals started coming.

Graziano broke the ice off a feed from Rease Coleman 75 seconds into the second half. Then, 8:30 into the half, Graziano set up Kayla Monticiollo’s goal. Just 2:45 from the end of the game, Graziano capped things off with her second goal of the game and third of the season, this one off a pass from Falisi.

Victoria Stapon made two saves for Riverhead’s first shutout of the young season. She benefitted from the work of defenders like Taylor McKnight, Peyton Choma, Sarah Rempe, Regan Montefusco and Lauren Kenny.

“It was the best game we played so far,” said Coleman, whose play, along with fellow midfielders Falisi and Katherine Goodale, drew praise from Walsh-Edwards. “We push ourselves and we don’t ever stop.”

The Blue Waves listened to their coaches, stayed low and attacked the goal. If they continue to do that, who knows where that will take them?

“I’m excited,” Walsh-Edwards said. “I told them they need to make some noise this season.”

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Photo caption: Riverhead’s Laryssa Olsen (left) and Angie Graziano pressure Sachem North goalkeeper Megan Biase. (Credit: Bob Liepa)