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Girls Lacrosse: Patient approach doesn’t bring Riverhead ‘W’

Good things come to those who wait. Or so they say.

The Riverhead girls lacrosse team was perhaps at its most patient Saturday. The Blue Waves were in anything but a hurry, taking their sweet time on offense (sometimes minutes at a time), passing the ball around clockwise, and then counterclockwise, as if in a practice drill. They were in no rush at all as they probed, looking for weaknesses in Bayport-Blue Point’s defense.

They didn’t find many.

Host Bayport exhibited patience of its own, but the Phantoms also have good speed and skill, which they put to use in a 9-4 non-league defeat of Riverhead. It was a season-low goal total for Riverhead.

Both teams were coming off tough losses in their previous games, Riverhead’s being an 18-6 pasting by Northport Thursday. Those two teams entered that game tied atop the Suffolk County Division I standings.

“It was a shock,” Riverhead defender Ella Malanga said. “I think the loss against Northport kind of shows us how much harder we need to work if we want to be one of those top teams.”

The “shock” Malanga referred to may have been more about the goal margin than the actual result.

“Everyone was talking about how it was going to be the game of the season,” she said. She added: “It was supposed to be the most exciting game of the season, so it was definitely a huge letdown and a huge setback for us, but right now we’re trying to keep our heads up and get back into the season because we do still have important games left and we’re definitely going to see Northport again in playoffs.”

Riverhead goalie Sofia Salgado said: “I think we slowly got to get our confidence back. That was a huge hit that we took at Northport to our team.”

Riverhead’s play Saturday was an improvement from the Northport game, but still not to the level the Blue Waves (8-3, 8-2) want. After a 3-3 first half, Northport’s zone defense held Riverhead to a single second-half goal, by Emma Conroy, her second of the game.

Bayport’s Ailish Kelly was a force to be reckoned with, scoring on four of her seven shots and assisting on three other goals. Kelly scored off a pass from Megan Brockbank while being pushed into the crease with seven seconds left in the first half to make it 3-3. That was the first of five straight goals by Bayport (9-2, 7-2 Division II). Kelly had two of those goals and Madison Waters (two goals, one assist), Maddigan Miller (two goals) and Jacqueline Mason netted the others, putting Bayport ahead, 7-3, with 11:01 left in the game.

“We like to play quick on both sides of the ball,” Bayport coach Ryan Gick said, “but they slowed it down offensively and, you know, I think we have faith in what we do defensively that if they want to play slow, we’ll wait on you and make you have to make smart decisions.”

Riverhead was outshot, 20-8. Bayport goalie Madison Grazidei made two saves. Salgado stopped seven shots.

Bayport also caused turnovers, and they take a toll. “Pickoffs, knockdowns, it just deflates a team after they keep coming down,” said Gick.

Megan Kielbasa and Ava Lily Sumwalt scored Riverhead’s first two goals. Lauren Kenny had two assists and Chrissy Thomas one for the Blue Waves.

“We have the looks and we have, obviously, some of the most talented offensive players on Long Island,” Malanga said, “and I think just finishing it and getting it in the back of the net was something we struggled with with Northport and we also struggled with in this game.”

Riverhead coach Ashley Schandel called the one-sided loss to Northport “terrible.” Not that she wanted to use it as an excuse, but the Blue Waves are not at full strength. Two starters, midfielder Delu Rizzo (wrist growth plate) and attack Angie Graziano (pulled hamstring), are out with injuries, as is backup goalie Leah Zenk (concussion). At the same time, ankle troubles have slowed midfielders Caleigh Kalmus and Conroy.

Schandel said: “I think they’re going to learn from this and that we’re moving forward and we need to get some more wins under our belt to go from here because the playoffs are right around the corner and from there you lose and you’re out, you’re done. Every single game from here on out for the whole season matters.”

Photo caption: Riverhead goalie Sofia Salgado (seven saves) looks for a teammate to pass to while Bayport-Blue Point’s Megan Brockbank chases her during the first half. (Credit: Bob Liepa)

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