By Bill Landon

Port Jefferson’s first-year girls lacrosse coach Kelly Walsh will be relying on her team’s defense to help the Royals improve on its win total in its second ever varsity season.

Last year, the Royals notched two wins, and ultimately fell short of a third with a 14-13 loss at the hands of Copiague. Although Port Jefferson hasn’t had a chance to have many outdoor practices yet this year, the head coach is liking what she’s seeing.

“I think we’re coming together pretty well,” said Walsh, who played for Commack and St. Joseph’s University. “I think we’re going to be strong defensively. The girls just bond really well, so I think now that some of them have put their foot in the water to get experience playing, even though we’re so young, they’re starting to get that connection with the older players.”

Brooke Zamek said she believes there’s more work to be done to be in a position to win games.

“We definitely have to work on some skills, because we’re not at the top of our abilities yet,” the freshman defender and midfielder said. “But we all know each other — we’ve known each other for a long time — and that helps us.”

Without any seniors on the squad, this year’s team is a mix of very new varsity players with a handful of juniors, but Walsh said her team will use that to its advantage.

“You wouldn’t know [the difference] between the eighth-graders and eleventh-grade player because they treat each other like sisters,” the coach said. “Youth doesn’t make that much of a difference, maybe in size, but you can see where the older girls just take in the younger players.”

Freshman Katelynn Johnston echoed the assessment of her coach and teamates about how her Royals will look this year.

“We communicate well, we work well together, we need to get better at our stick skills,” she said. “We’re young, but I think we’ll do fairly well this year.”

Midfielder Phalina Sciara took her critiques a step further, analyzing different particular aspects of Port Jefferson’s play.

“We’ve got to hone our passing and clean up our stick skills, but we shouldn’t be underestimated just because we’re a young team,” the junior said. “We have great coaches this year, so that definitely helps, and they know how to motivate us and I think we’ll do well this year.”

Walsh said the season will be a challenge with a small roster, but hopes her limited amount of substitutes can still make their own contributions.

“We’re going to have to lean on our subs,” Walsh said. “But they’re always talking about who wants it more amongst themselves, and that builds character.”

Port Jefferson will be tested when it opens the season at home March 28 hosting Deer Park at 4 p.m.

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