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Top Sports Stories 2018: Riverhead lacrosse plays in semis

At the start of the 2018 season, the Riverhead girls lacrosse team adopted a motto of “we over me.” The Blue Waves had reason for optimism to begin the year and they knew it would take a collective team effort to take the program to the next level.

The Blue Waves were coming off an 11-7 season and its first playoff appearance. Now, just making the playoffs wasn’t going to satisfy the players. They wanted more. And as the preseason No. 6 seed out of 22 teams, there was an expectation to make the playoffs.

“They’re amped up and ready for the season,” Riverhead coach Ashley Schandel said during the preseason.

The Blue Waves were just that. With a team that featured multiple scorers and tough defenders, the Blue Waves went on to accomplish their most successful season, marking a huge step forward into a deep field of talent-rich Suffolk County.

By early May, as the postseason neared, the Blue Waves had won eight of nine games and their confidence continued to grow. During that span, the Blue Waves had outscored opponents 112-73.

Later that month, the Blue Waves traveled to Middle Country for a quarterfinal matchup against the No. 4 seed. It was a rematch of an early-season game that Riverhead won by a goal. And this one was just as tight. Delu Rizzo’s goal of a return pass from Lauren Kenny with 30 seconds left in the second half snapped a tie and lifted Riverhead to a thrilling 13-12 victory.

“We made history,” Schandel said.

The victory sent the Blue Waves to the Class A semifinals against top-seeded and unbeaten Northport. The Blue Waves put up a valiant effort, but ultimately fell 15-10.

“We never gave up and played to the last buzzer,” said Megan Kielbasa. “We gave it all we got for a new team coming here.”

Photo caption: Kayla Kielbasa of Riverhead, right. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)