The Riverhead girls lacrosse team began the 2019 season in uncharted territory.
The Blue Waves were seeded second in Suffolk Division I, only behind Northport, the team that ended their season one year earlier in the county semifinals.
“If we want to be the best team in the county, we have to beat the best teams in the county,” Riverhead coach Ashley Schandel said at the beginning of the season.
The Blue Waves featured a deep core of talented returners who would go on to lead the team back into the postseason. As one of the top seeds, the Blue Waves faced a challenging schedule, with game after game against strong opponents.
In early April, they faced an immediate test against Middle Country at Riverhead’s Pulaski Sports Complex. The Blue Waves overcame a five-goal deficit and tied the score in the second half before ultimately losing by a goal, 11-10. The Blue Waves showed they could compete with the best in the county.
A week later, the Blue Waves won in overtime against Smithtown East as Megan Kielbasa scored in the extra session to lift the team to a 14-13 win. The win improved the team’s record to 7-1.
Kielbasa would play a key factor a month later when the teams met again in the Class A playoffs. Once again, the game went to overtime. And once again, Kielbasa delivered the game-winner.
Her free position shot lifted Riverhead to a 13-12 quarterfinal triumph. Kielbasa also assisted on Lauren Kenny’s goal that tied the score at 12-12 with 2:42 left in the second half.
The season came to an end in the semifinals when the Blue Waves were on the opposite end of another one-goal game. This time Middle Country prevailed 9-8 to advance to the county championship.
Photo caption: Riverhead’s Megan Kielbasa and Emma Conroy, from left, react with joy following Kielbasa’s game-winning goal. (Credit: Bob Liepa/file)