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Dowling College

The Ward Melville field hockey team celebrates it's 2-1 victory over Newfield that earned the Patriots the Suffolk County Class A championship title at Dowling College on Nov. 2. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Despite a scoreless battle after 30 minutes of field hockey action, it was Ward Melville sophomore midfielder Kate Mulham’s goal scored with 8:31 left in regulation that was the game-winner for the No. 1-seeded Patriots over No. 2 Newfield, for the Suffolk County Class A title Monday evening at Dowling College’s Athletic Complex.

Ward Melville's Kate Mulham moves the ball in the Patriots' 2-1 win over Newfield for the Suffolk County Class A championship title on Nov. 2 at Dowling College. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville’s Kate Mulham moves the ball in the Patriots’ 2-1 win over Newfield for the Suffolk County Class A championship title on Nov. 2 at Dowling College. Photo by Bill Landon

The first goal of the game came nine minutes into the second half, when Ward Melville sophomore Kerri Thornton crossed the ball to freshman Lexi Reinhardt, who smacked it in for the 1-0 lead.

“Kerri [Thornton] brought it up field” Reinhardt said. “I was just there to hit it in.”

Neither team faced each other during the regular season, so Patriots (13-1) were seeing the Wolverines (12-2) for the first time.

Although the time of possession favored Ward Melville, Newfield pressed for all 60 minutes, forcing the Patriots to earn every move.

Ward Melville junior Kiera Alventosa said she knew her team would have their hands full with their opponent.

“We couldn’t let up at all against them — they came at us hard,” she said. “On offense, we passed well, we were looking at our lanes. We were strong defensively; they weren’t getting through us.”

With 17:40 left to play, Newfield made it a new game when senior forward Maggie Finley rocked the box with an assist from her younger sister, Abby, a freshman midfielder.

Ward Melville's Kiera Alventosa drives past Newfield's Michelle Loken in the Patriots' 2-1 win over the Wolverines for the Suffolk County Class A title on Nov. 2 at Dowling College. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville’s Kiera Alventosa drives past Newfield’s Michelle Loken in the Patriots’ 2-1 win over the Wolverines for the Suffolk County Class A title on Nov. 2 at Dowling College. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville head coach Shannon Watson said the journey to the championship round wasn’t easy.

“It’s been quite an emotional road — we were down 4-1 in our last game but our kids battled back and it shows how determined they are,” Watson said. “To be here is wonderful, but it just wasn’t enough for them. They wanted to make sure that they had a solid win tonight.”

That solid win came when Mulham received the ball from Thornton, and drove her shot to the back of the cage for the 2-1 lead.

“I expected them to be good — they’re the No. 2 seed,” Thornton said. “So we had to come out with great intensity to keep our momentum.”

Ward Melville will face Massapequa for the Long Island Class A title on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Dowling College.

“I’ll let them take a day to let it soak in and enjoy the win,” said the coach. “Then it’s back to practice and we’ll continue to do what we’ve done all season, working on our spacing and our ball control and sharpening our defense.”

The Ward Melville field hockey team poses for a group photo after edging out Newfield, 2-1, to earn the Suffolk County Class A title at Dowling College on Nov. 2. Photo by Bill Landon
The Ward Melville field hockey team poses for a group photo after edging out Newfield, 2-1, to earn the Suffolk County Class A title at Dowling College on Nov. 2. Photo by Bill Landon

Middle Country's Ashley Miller stands poised and ready to make a save in a previous contest against Northport. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Ashley Miller has been a part of two undefeated girls’ lacrosse seasons in Middle Country school district’s history, and as she moves on to play at Dowling College, she will have the opportunity to add another to her resume.

“It feels great to look back at what I’ve accomplished,” the now former Middle Country goalkeeper said. “I remember in eighth grade my middle school lacrosse team went undefeated and to have both my high school and middle school careers end undefeated is a good feeling.”

This past season, the Mad Dogs went 14-0 in Division I before falling to West Islip, 11-10, in double overtime in the Suffolk County finals. It was the first time the varsity team went undefeated and was the furthest the team had made it in the postseason. In 2014, Middle Country fell in the semifinals to the same West Islip team, 12-11, with one second left on the clock.

Middle Country's Ashley Miller watches the play downfield. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Middle Country’s Ashley Miller watches the play downfield. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Being in goal, Miller has been the last line of defense for both undefeated seasons and as she has gotten older, her skills have only improved. As a starter in goal for the last two seasons, head coach Lindsay Dolson noted the advances she saw.

“She definitely has come a long way and has improved her skills so much and worked really hard to get there,” she said. “We felt confident in her. She’s worked really hard and done all the extra work to get to where she is today. She came up with big saves for us.”

Dolson also pointed out that Miller was part of the reason the team was so successful the last two years and made it as far as they had.

“If you don’t have a good goalie in the cage there’s not a lot that you can do to stop people from scoring, especially in girls lacrosse, so she helped us become the team that we are today,” she said. “Ashley was a great player and very coachable. Anything we wanted to try, she was always willing to do it.”

Miller started out playing lacrosse with her cousins when she was young, but wasn’t interested in the sport at first. Not on an official team until seventh grade, she used the sport as a way to stay athletic and make new friends. According to her father, Butch, she played field hockey and lacrosse in junior high but switched to lacrosse in high school because she had more of a passion for the sport.

“She picked it up in middle school and was always a determined individual,” he said. “Whatever she starts, she follows through. She doesn’t give up, she’s not a quitter and she gives it her all.”

Middle Country's Ashley Miller races away from the cage to send the ball into play. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Middle Country’s Ashley Miller races away from the cage to send the ball into play. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Miller learned a lot of the basics in seventh and eighth grade and as she moved up to the high school level, she played year-round with off-season practices and winter and summer leagues. She was pulled up to the varsity team during the playoffs when she was a freshman and remained on the team, starting between the pipes her junior and senior year.

“The team was really close, we all got along really well and it was interesting how I was able to build up so quickly and pick up the game so fast and to be able to get pulled up to varsity early,” she said. “We became really close and it felt great to be a part of that and experience that, because it was the best team I’d ever been on. It meant a lot to be able to play such a major role.”

Miller’s father said his daughter was always interested in playing locally and was thrilled with her decision to play at Dowling.

“It’s hard to put into words how amazing it is that her hard work is paying off for her,” he said. “She’s done a lot for herself and it’s made her a better person. I’m very proud to be her father. All of her dedication earned her a scholarship and there are a lot of doors that have now been opened for her. I want her to strive to be the best and never settle; always reach for the stars.”

The Dowling freshman will be competing against three other goalkeepers for the starting position and hopes to be able to make an immediate impact on the team.

“One of my goals is to never stop improving, but I also want to try to get a starting position,” she said, laughing. “I love the sport, it helps you get out there and meet new people and it also helps you take your stress out and just have fun. I learned how to push myself through the sport, be a good team member and to be the best that I can be.”