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Field Hockey: Late East Islip playoff goal sinks SWR

A high school field hockey season had come full circle. Shoreham-Wading River, which had christened its season with a 2-1 win at East Islip on Sept. 3, saw that season conclude Wednesday against, you guessed it — East Islip.

Just minutes after SWR had knocked in an equalizer, giving the Wildcats new life in a Suffolk County Class B first-round playoff game, East Islip prevailed on Jessica Peluso’s game-winner with 2 minutes, 2 seconds left at Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field in Shoreham. This time the Redmen were 2-1 winners.

“We really tried our best to score and try and beat them, but you know, things don’t always work out,” said SWR center forward Mya Napolitano.

The teams entered the game with identical records. East Islip (12-3) was seeded fifth and SWR (11-4) fourth.

“That’s as even as it gets,” said SWR center midfielder Brooke Meltcher, who had two goals and nine assists this season.

The score was dead even at 1-1 when SWR’s Emma Wadington got her stick to a shot by Reese Marcario for her third goal of the season with 7:28 left in the fourth quarter. “I just saw the ball coming straight at me and I tipped the ball and it went right through the goalie’s legs and into the corner,” said Wadington, a left forward and one of nine seniors on the SWR roster.

Just like that, momentum changed. Or so it seemed.

“It’s a game of shifts, as you saw all day today,” said East Islip coach Chris Veit.

But then a shot by Peluso, East Islip’s senior captain, assisted by junior captain Sarah Smalley, found its way under goalie Isabella DiPaola (seven saves). It was Peluso’s second goal of the season. That doesn’t include a deciding shootout goal she registered against Sayville.

East Islip’s Chelsea Dodenhoff made five saves.

Center forward Mya Napolitano registered 11 goals and five assists this season for Shoreham-Wading River. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

“We have, you know, progressed tremendously going all the way through,” said Veit, whose team won its 11th straight game and will face No. 1 Bayport-Blue Point (14-1), the regular-season Division II champion, Friday in a county semifinal. “We want to play as much hockey as possible. I knew the kids weren’t going to give up, you know, at a 1-1 game. They will play overtime, but if they can get it done [in] regular [time], they’ll get it done in regulation.”

It was a more offensive-minded SWR that took the field for the second half after an opening 30 minutes that saw the Wildcats pidgeonholed in their half of the field for a good while. East Islip’s first-half reward was Smalley’s seventh goal of the season 6:38 into the second quarter. Like the winning goal, it came off a penalty corner.

Still, the Wildcats did not lose hope after falling behind. They have repeatedly shown an ability to bounce back this season.

“That wasn’t the first time we’ve been in that situation,” Meltcher said. “I mean, we came back plenty of times.”

Wadington said, “Once we get the feeling of someone scoring on us, it kind of gets us like more fired up.”

And while there may have been fire, there was no SWR comeback this time. The disappointment of defeat aside, a few Wildcats spoke afterward about the improvement their team made under coach Jenna Stevenson since going 6-8 this past spring.

“This season has been incredible,” said Napolitano, who put up 11 goals and five assists this season. “I think this is one of the best teams we ever had here at Shoreham, and I’m so thankful that I got to be a part of it and I’m so grateful for the girls that I played with, you know. We all got so close.”

Meltcher, asked to sum up the season, said: “Incredible. I’m so proud. I couldn’t say anything less. So proud.”

Wadington could look at the bright side of things. “At least it was like a happy ending, you know,” she said. “We made it pretty far. We worked really hard to make it this far, and we love each other. That’s all that matters.”