Playoffs, here they come.
In the end, the Shoreham-Wading River High School girls lacrosse team left little doubt that it could get the job done and show that it’s a playoff player. Here’s a testament to the power of determination and razor-sharp focus.
Needing to win its final three regular-season games in order to extend a long string of playoff appearances, SWR did just that. The Wildcats romped over Hampton Bays, 18-4, and Port Jefferson, 17-0, before facing a bigger test Friday night in Rocky Point. Rocky Point had already been eliminated from playoff contention and was playing for pride and its four seniors on Senior Night.
SWR had a lot more at stake, and played like it.
Buoyed by inspired play from seniors Isabella Meli and Jenna Lesiwicz, SWR booked its postseason plans with a 13-7 win, its sixth in eight games. The Wildcats (10-6, 8-6 Suffolk County Division II) shot out to a 9-1 lead before Rocky Point twice closed the gap to four goals at 10-6 and 11-7.
“I think today was amazing and I think we should keep the momentum rolling into playoffs now that we know that we’re going to make it and hopefully make it far,” said Meli, who scored on three of nine shots and assisted on four goals. “No one wanted it to be the last game of the season.”
While bringing a businesslike approach, SWR also seemed loose. Nicolette Constant and Catherine Erb certainly appeared so, dancing to music played over the public-address system before the game.
Under the surface, though, nerves were felt.
“Yeah, I was a little nervous, but [Rocky Point] lost to a lot of the teams that we beat, so that gave us a lot of the confidence, and our practices have gotten a lot more intense recently, knowing that big games were coming up, so that really helped,” said defender Summer Steimel.
SWR scored on its first charge upfield on Carlie Cutinella’s goal in a girl-up situation. Meli then scored on an assist from Hayden Lachenmeyer (two goals, one assist) before returning the favor for a 3-0 lead 3 minutes, 36 seconds into the game.
After Briana Lamoureux faked one way before going another for the first of her three goals for Rocky Point (she also had six draw controls), SWR reeled off six goals in succession by Erb, Gabby Meli, Erb, Lachenmeyer, Isabella Meli and Gabby Meli, her sister.
Steimel didn’t register a goal or an assist, but the junior was a big help with her four draw controls and two ground balls.
“Summer is like our hard-hat worker,” SWR coach Brittany Davis said. “She doesn’t care, she just keeps on working, one thing after another. It’s almost like she has endless energy.”
Rocky Point (6-10, 5-9), which closed out its season with its fifth loss in six games, went on a 5-1 run. That was capped by Lamoureux’s free-position shot, making it 10-6 with 17:21 left in the second half.
Just like that, a rout in the making had turned back into a game. Davis called a timeout to regroup her team.
After play resumed, Lesiwicz scored all three of her goals in the final 14:47.
Rocky Point received two goals from Megan Greco, one goal and three assists from Kelly Logue and a goal by Sydney Strohmayer. But SWR goalie Sarah Sheridan was tough to beat, stopping 11 shots.
“Sarah played a great game, making save after save, you know, even just getting blasted with shots right to her face,” Davis said. “I told her today I was so proud of her. She’s the difference between winning and losing.”
Davis expects the playoff brackets to be released by Monday at the latest. She said SWR’s playoff game will be on May 18. The coach believes this will be at least the 16th straight year that SWR has reached the playoffs.
Davis said she told her players: “You know what’s really cool? No matter how many teams spanked you this season by how many points, the season’s over. The playoffs [are] a whole new ballgame and it’s really, really awesome that you guys get to reinvent yourselves, redefine who you are and send a message … Now you don’t have to think about those shoulda, coulda, wouldas. You got a second chance at that.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River’s Hayden Lachenmeyer slips a shot past Rocky Point goalie Maggie Donohue for one of her two goals. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)