As if the loaded Riverhead High School girls lacrosse team didn’t already have enough in its arsenal, the Blue Waves have added the power of positivity.
Positive thinking is on the Blue Waves’ minds these days. As a team, they are reading a book, “The Positive Dog,” that deals with the topic. The lessons learned have translated over to lacrosse.
“If you start to say something negative or think something negative, there’s a way to just turn it and make it more positive,” said coach Ashley Schandel.
A rocky start saw Riverhead fall behind by one goal on three occasions in the first half to underdog Huntington on Friday. It was an unnerving beginning for Riverhead. Huntington was giving as good as it was taking.
By staying positive, though, the Blue Waves recovered and turned in a positive result. Check off another mark in the win column.
With five goals by Megan Kielbasa and four assists from Lauren Kenny, Riverhead ran off an 11-6 win in the Suffolk County Division I game at Pulaski Sports Complex in Riverhead.
“We’re all doing better with keeping positivity and picking each other up and not pushing each other down, and it shows on the field,” said Kielbasa, a junior midfielder.
Riverhead (3-0, 3-0), the No. 2 seed in Division I behind Northport, is off to a good start, with wins also coming against Lindenhurst and Sachem North. The Blue Waves have outscored their opponents, 44-12.
Of course, the team has much bigger things in mind down the road.
“It’s safe to say that this is the best team that Riverhead has ever had,” Schandel said. She added: “They’re good lacrosse players. They’re excited. They want that county championship and to go further.”
Attached to that high seeding are high expectations. High expectations bring a pressure of their own.
“It’s scary to be up there because there’s pressure,” said Schandel.
Riverhead seems to have embraced those expectations and that pressure, though.
“Now that we’re number two, we have targets on our back with every team that we play,” Kielbasa said, “but I think we do a good job of stepping up and playing to the level of a number two team.”
Riverhead showed its mettle after Huntington (0-4, 0-2) took one-goal leads on goals by Abby Maichin (three goals), Jordan Forte (two goals) and Paige Lennon in the opening 13 minutes, 54 seconds.
“We were having a lot of turnovers, so we had to pick up the slack,” said junior midfielder Emma Conroy, who brought Riverhead three goals. “We were not playing to our ability.”
Schandel was thinking positive, though. “I never doubted them,” she said. “I never doubt them, ever. They just had to kind of turn on their ‘on’ switch.”
When they did flip that switch, the Blue Waves reeled off the next five goals for a 7-3 lead.
Kielbasa said, “I think we had a really good halftime talk and we decided that it’s time to be the Riverhead that we all know and love and put the goals away and play as a team and stop making the silly mistakes on defense, and I think we corrected all of our problems and we turned out a win.”
Riverhead’s Christine Thomas provided two goals and an assist, and Kayla Kielbasa, Megan’s sister, was good for a goal and an assist.
Leah Zenk replaced Sofia Salgado in the Riverhead goal at the start of the second half and made four saves. Huntington goalie Maya Santa-Maria made 10 saves.
The win was the perfect birthday gift for Riverhead senior attack Angie Graziano, who turned 18. After the game, her teammates serenaded her with “Happy Birthday To You” before they all enjoyed cupcakes.
“We had a great win today and plenty more to come,” said Conroy.
That’s positive thinking, the sort of thinking the Blue Waves like.
Schandel said, “Our thing is feed the positive, starve the negative, and in the end it’s going to get you somewhere.”
Photo caption: Riverhead seventh-grade midfielder Peyton Choma advances the ball against Huntington. (Credit: Bob Liepa)