Possibly the last person to know that the ball had found the net was the lacrosse player who shot it.
Incredibly, Hayden Lachenmeyer somehow managed to maintain her focus and get off a left-handed shot amid a crowd about four meters from goal — while down on the field turf! She said she never saw where the ball ended up, but the reactions of her Shoreham-Wading River teammates and the home crowd must have clued her in.
As remarkable as the goal was for its aesthetic value, it was a valuable equalizer, tying the score at 7-7 and giving SWR a much-needed shot in the arm on the way to its 9-7 triumph over Sayville in a Suffolk County Class C outbracket game Saturday at Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field.
“Anyone that is able to still productively place a shot in the midst of like eight sticks swinging at you is amazing,” said SWR coach Brittany Davis.
Lachenmeyer’s only goal of the game was part of a 4-0 game-ending run by SWR (11-6), which won its fourth straight game. That game-turning spurt started with Isabella Meli’s goal from a free-position shot (her third strike of the day) and later followed with Gabby Meli’s free-position goal and Amanda Padrazo’s goal.
The game was as tight as one might expect of the fifth and fourth seeds, two teams that finished right next to each other in the final Division II standings (SWR was ninth and Sayville 10th).
The teams were never separated by more than two goals, the first two of those occasions in Sayville’s favor. Successive second-half goals by Brooke Hoss (two goals), Jordan Messina and Ally Reilly gave Sayville (11-6) a 7-5 lead with 10 minutes, 52 seconds left in the game. The last of those goals came while Isabella Meli served a two-minute penalty.
“It was very, very intense — all around,” Padrazo said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Goals can seemingly come out of nowhere in lacrosse. Lachenmeyer’s goal falls in that category.
Officially, it was an unassisted goal, but Gabby Meli (two goals, one assist) drew praise for her part in the play. Lachenmeyer’s original shot was well-saved by Emily Manning, but the hustling Gabby Meli, running from behind the cage, kept the ball in play by knocking it down for Lachenmeyer to pick up.
“It’s those behind-the-scenes players that, without her, that wouldn’t have happened,” Davis said. “Those are the things that make a difference.”
Near the end of the game, SWR played that awkward game within a game of balancing the value of possession against goals with time dwindling down.
Davis said: “It’s scary for the girls, it’s scary for me, like should we go to the goal? Should we not? Possession is key, but if we hold it and lose it, it might have been worth the shot.
“The girls played smart. They kept the possession when they needed to.”
SWR won without one of its starting midfielders, senior Jenna Lesiwicz, who was unavailable. People were moved around and Nicolette Constant was inserted into midfield. She responded with a goal. Catherine Erb also scored for SWR while Sarah Sheridan made seven saves.
Sayville received two goals from Meg McLaughlin and one goal and three assists from Erin Schaeffer.
Playoff games bring a pressure of their own. “They’re very stressful, more intense, just because any team can win any day,” Lachenmeyer said. “It’s a playoff game. You’re never going to know what happens.”
Isabella Meli, who played with a borrowed stick from teammate Mia Rosati because her stick did not pass the pregame stick check, said, “This game was definitely really high intensity and we know it’s win or the season’s over.”
SWR will get a taste of more it Wednesday when it faces No. 1 Mount Sinai (13-2) in a semifinal. On March 28, SWR lost to the Mustangs, 15-5.
In the meantime, the Wildcats can enjoy the thrill of a home playoff victory.
Said Padrazo, “I’m on top of the world right now.”
Photo caption: Isabella Meli, Gabby Meli, Hayden Lachenmeyer, Nicolette Constant, Amanda Padrazo and Carlie Cutinella, from left, celebrate Lachenmeyer’s goal for Shoreham-Wading River from a shot from the ground. (Credit: Bob Liepa)