By Bill Landon
It was a feeding frenzy.
Middle Country midfielders Ava Barry, Amanda Masullo and Jamie Ortega tallied three goals each in a shutout first half of Riverhead’s girls’ lacrosse team April 15, en route to a 16-9 win.
“We’ve practiced really hard and we had a couple of tough games this week, but we just play every team like they’re the best,” said Barry, who is Boston College-bound in September. “We always have to play like that.”
That’s because after a 16-2 2016 season, and with the top lacrosse recruit in the nation, according to Inside Lacrosse, in Ortega, Middle Country plays with a target on its back.
But both teams were 4-1 in Division I heading into the contest. Riverhead had difficulty clearing the ball, and Ortega said her team had to capitalize on her opponent’s missteps.
“You can never take anyone lightly,” said Ortega, who will play for the University of North Carolina in the fall. “Even though they lost to teams that we beat that doesn’t mean anything. Anyone can win on any given day, and we knew they were a good team, so we had to play up to par.”
After a Riverhead goal eliminated the shutout, Ortega found the back of the net for her fourth goal of the day. On a leaping cut in front of the cage, sophomore Sophie Alois redirected a feed and fired a shot at the cage that was her hat trick goal.
“We sort of let them come back and we held em off at the end,” said Alois, who has committed to the University of Michigan. “They played better than I expected but we adapted to that well.”
Middle Country head coach Lindsay Dolson worked in her bench players the rest of the way, as Riverhead slowly chipped away at the deficit.
“If we play the way we’re capable of we’re the stronger team,” Dolson said. “Riverhead, they’re a little bit young with a similar record, so we had to play fast on offense moving it around — keeping the ball hot — not stopping and settling.”
Senior Amy Hofer’s goal put her team ahead by 10, which triggered a running clock, but Riverhead slowed it back to normal after six unanswered goals helped the Blue Waves to a 16-7 margin.
“We’ve learned to not predict what we think they’ll be like so we always come out hard,” said Masullo, who is headed to Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus after graduation. “We don’t underestimate any team.”
Middle Country goalkeeper Emily Walsh got busy between the pipes, and made seven saves to help preserve the win. Sophomore goalkeeper Sara Indelicato added two saves. Still, Walsh noticed a need for improvement.
“I’m working on getting better and building my confidence,” the senior said. “I’m working on my low shots because I struggled with that in our last game.”
Ortega also finished with four assists, Masullo had three and Alois and Barry had one apiece. Hofer finished the morning with two goals, and junior Jordyn Juvelier found the net once and had two assists.
With the win Middle Country rises to the No. 2 spot in the standings behind Ward Melville and Northport. both undefeated to start the season.
The Mad Dogs are back April 18 when the host Connetquot at 4 p.m.