Asked what makes her Miller Place High School field hockey team as good as it is, coach Alana LaMorte provided what might sound like an odd answer. She said the Panthers don’t have a single superstar — and that’s a good thing, mind you.
“I think that really helps,” she said. “They all have each other’s back.”
The team without a superstar shined enough Thursday, though, to end Shoreham-Wading River’s season. Goals by senior Madison Murphy and junior Lizzie Doherty carried host Miller Place to a 2-0 win and, for a second straight year, SWR was bounced in a Suffolk County Class B outbracket game.
“Miller Place is always a super tough game and it’s very high intensity,” SWR defender Gabriella Meli said. “They’re the fun games, the ones you really have to work hard in. I thought we tried our hardest and we put everything onto the field because we knew this could be one of our last games, so we put our hearts into it.”
No. 4 seed Miller Place (12-5), which earned a semifinal against No. 1 Bayport-Blue Point (12-3-1) Monday, had beaten SWR twice during the regular season, once in a shootout. Would the third time be a charm for SWR?
That’s what LaMorte was concerned about. “Playoffs is a new season,” she said, “so whatever happened in the regular season doesn’t matter now.”
LaMorte expressed a healthy respect for the fifth-seeded Wildcats (8-8).
“They’re very fast,” she said. “They have a great defense. They have one of the top players in the county in Summer [Steimel]. So, we’ve had to prepare ourselves for that because we don’t really have any standout players. We all kind of just work together and hustle and try to work hard.”
That they did on a sunny day under a blue, cloudless sky.
Miller Place struck for its first goal just 7 minutes and 39 seconds into the game. The goal came off the game’s first penalty corner, with Murphy slamming a long-range shot past goalkeeper Ashley Luppens (five saves) for her third goal of the year. Taylor Guigliano assisted.
“My initial thought was it’s one goal,” Meli said. “We can definitely come back. We can score just as many as they can, if not more.”
Not on this day, though.
While goalkeeper Meaghan Stoessel went about posting a three-save shutout, Miller Place tacked on an insurance goal through Doherty (her second of the season) off a feed from Ally Schreck with 14:50 left in the second half.
“They’re definitely a good team and have a lot of skilled players and they like to capitalize on their fast breaks and they definitely hit the ball long and hard and can hustle after it, so that’s hard to defend, but we tried,” Meli said. “They were kind of relentless and never gave up.”
Asked for her take on her team’s performance, SWR midfielder Abigail Korzekwinski said: “Some points of the game we played good; others we didn’t. It’s just all about hustle.”
LaMorte, whose team took a victory lap afterward, said, “We’ve been preparing all season for playoffs and they all just stepped up and wanted to win.”
It was the final game in the high school careers of SWR’s five seniors: Korzekwinski, Luppens, Meli, Steimel and forward Madeline Rutkowsky.
What has this season been like for the Wildcats?
Korzekwinski, her voice choking with emotion, answered: “I thought it was an amazing season from the start. It was so fun, and I’m going to miss it a lot.”
Photo caption: Abigail Korzekwinski, one of Shoreham-Wading River’s five seniors, takes a hit during the second half of the Wildcats’ 2-0 playoff loss at Miller Place. (Credit: Bob Liepa)