By Desirée Keegan
For the fourth straight year, the Middle Country girls’ lacrosse team will be making it to the semifinals of the Class A playoffs. But this time, West Islip won’t be standing in their way.
No. 3-seeded Middle Country outscored No. 6 Sachem North 9-5 May 22. Because of the seeding, No. 9 West Islip was on the opposite side of the bracket, and No. 1 Ward Melville took care of the dirty work for the Mad Dogs.
“With Ward Melville eliminating West Islip, I think it has taken some pressure off of the team, because we finally have West Islip out of our hair,” senior Rachel Masullo said. “But no matter who we verse, we can’t take our foot off the gas. We have to keep giving it our all.”
West Islip eliminated Middle Country the last three years — twice in the semifinals, and in the 2015 finals. Sophomore Sophie Alois said that with the team continuing to improve year after year though, the Mad Dogs weren’t as frightened of the Lions as they had been in the past.
“Although West Islip has been our kryptonite the last few years, they don’t intimidate us anymore,” she said. “We know we can play with them, and beat them, and we’ve shown that.”
The sophomore was referring to the team’s 13-9 win over West Islip April 20.
For now, she’s glad the team can continue its season.
“I know none of us are ready for it to end,” Alois said following the win over Sachem North. “Today was just another notch in the belt, and now we’re focused on Wednesday.”
Alois led the team with four goals. Masullo had the most points, with five on two goals and three assists.
“Coming into this matchup we knew we had to limit our turnovers in the midfield and have a really strong defense, which we did,” Masullo said. “Our composure also played a big part in this win.”
The senior added that coming into the matchup, she replayed the loss to Sachem North, an 11-8 defeat May 2, over and over in her mind, and knew the Mad Dogs couldn’t let it happen again.
“It definitely wasn’t a feeling I wanted to go through again,” she said. “The loss really fired us up.”
Because a handful of the girls have been playing together for three or four seasons, the team has a strong connection. Having a few sister pairings, and the No. 1 women’s lacrosse draftee in the nation in Jamie Ortega, doesn’t hurt either. The University of North Carolina-commit finished with a goal and an assist. Senior Ava Barry added a goal and three assists, and Masullo’s twin sister Amanda rounded out the scoring with a goal of her own.
Alois said that head coach Lindsay Dolson tells the team “your attitude is contagious, and all it takes is one person to get everyone going.”
The sophomore said now more than ever, the team is heeding those words.
“I know none of us are ready for this season to end,” she said. “We don’t want to feel how we have the last few seasons, having our runs cut short. We are sick of losing, we want to win. The energy from my teammates is motivating, and we’re all contributing to the exciting atmosphere.”
Middle Country faced No. 2 Smithtown East May 24, but results were not available by press time.
“It’s going to be hard to stop us,” Alois said. “We’re full steam ahead right now, and we won’t stop until we’ve won.”