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Field Hockey

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Patriots powerhouse wins two 1-0 games for first state crown since 2008

Kerri Thornton has become a thorn in the side of her opponents.

The senior standout scored Ward Melville’s game-winning goal in overtime to help the Patriots bring home the first Class A state title in field hockey since 2008 with a 1-0 win over Maine-Endwell on their field Nov. 12.

“At first, I honestly did not think it went in,” Thornton said. “When Kate [Mulham] got the back ball, I ran back into the circle and got ready for her to send it in. When she did, I received it, and just turned around and shot it hard hoping that it would go in.”

As Thornton’s teammates surrounded her in celebration, she said she knew what she’d done.

“I let out a huge shout in relief,” she said as she saw the smiling faces racing toward her. “It has been our dream ever since we were kids to win a championship like this. The journey this season — as a senior this year — this was what I wanted. I’m just so proud of my team for putting in the time and effort to get to where we got. It’s incredible that we finally pulled it off.”

The game-winning goal was scored with 4:37 left in overtime. Mulham said despite the team’s perfect 21-0 record, losing in the state final and semifinal games in extra minutes in the last two years lingered in the back of their minds. She said despite coming up just short in recent years, she knew the qualities her surrounding teammates possessed.

“What makes Ward Melville field hockey different is that we field a team where every girl is extremely talented,” she said. “Overtime is a high-pressure situation, but I was confident. That’s what makes us so successful.”

She said when she heard her classmate calling for the ball from the circle, she knew what she had to do.

“All I could see was a swarm of defenders when I passed the ball to Kerri,” Mulham said. “But I heard her calling for it, and I trust her, so I sent it to her. When I saw it go into the net, I broke down — tears of joy, and I rushed to hug her so tightly. I never wanted something so badly, and to accomplish something like this with your best friends is a feeling I can’t even put into words.”

With the intensity up and with a huge target on its back, Ward Melville began its journey upstate Nov. 11. With a second trip to the finals in three years on the line, junior Lexi Reinhardt was the first Patriot to jump for joy. Long Island’s leading goal scorer (33 points on 24 goals and nine assists) found the back of the cage in another pressure-filled situation. With 23 seconds left in the first half of a 0-0 game with Baldwinsville, she scored off an assist from senior Shannon Coughlan to send Ward Melville to the finals.

“The play was on a corner and in these games corners are precious,” Reinhardt said. “It was just a great pass from Shannon Coughlan and I was in the right position to finish it.”

She said the Patriots wanted to make a statement being back in the state semifinal game for the third year in a row.

“Heading in, there was definitely some nerves, but I think we channeled that and we were able to play off of the energy of the situation,” she said. “During the game we didn’t focus on that though, we were just focused on playing our game, and winning. The joy and happiness that we feel has radiated throughout the entire program. I will never forget this team.”

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Patriots hope to avenge last season's semifinal loss that ruined their perfect season

By Bill Landon

The freight train keeps on rolling.

Ward Melville’s undefeated field hockey team bested Mamaroneck 3-1 Nov. 4 to clinch the Southeast Regional title, and with that, punch a ticket to the state semifinal, where the Patriots will face Baldwinsville Nov. 11 at 9:30 a.m. at Maine-Endwell Senior High School.

The team has unfinished business after having its perfect record blemished following the state semifinal game last year, and falling to Mamaroneck in the state finals in 2015. Ward Melville head coach Shannon Sioss was happy her Patriots avenged their loss to the Tigers, but said the win is nothing more than a stepping-stone toward the ultimate goal.

“I told them how proud I am,” Sioss said she told her athletes after the win. “But now it’s time to continue that journey up to Binghamton, which has been our goal since the beginning of the season.”

All of the goals were scored in the second half, the first coming in the opening minutes when Ward Melville’s Caitlin Evans tapped in the ball after Lexi Reinhardt freed it from between the Tigers’ goalkeeper’s legs, despite being a man down.

“I was just so excited,” Evan said of scoring. “We’ve worked so hard all season, since August, to get here and we were not going to let it prevent us from getting to states. We were ready. We came in with heart and that really helped us to come back in the second half. We’re really working so hard for the seniors — it’s their last chance to make it to states.”

The Patriots’ lead was short-lived, as two minutes later Mamaroneck defender Emily Mahland ripped a shot past the goalie to make it a new game.

Both teams fielded a formidable defensive units, proved by the lack of shots on goal early on, but Ward Melville kept to its status quo by turning up the heat in the second half. Reinhardt found an open lane and rocked the box with a solo shot for the go-ahead goal with 10:45 left in regulation.Kerri Thornton scored the final goal with 2:45 on the clock.

“They’re an excellent program, so we had to keep the pressure going so they didn’t have a chance to come back,” Reinhardt said of Mamaroneck. “We’ve been [to the state semifinals and finals] before and we want to finish it this time. It’s not for us; it’s for the seniors, the whole program and the people [who] watch us.”

Ward Melville has allowed just two goals in five postseason appearances, and has outscored opponents 80-15 this entire season. Prior to the Southeast Regional win, the Patriots scored their 10th shutout of the year with a 6-0 win over Massapequa for their third straight Long Island championship title.

“Today we capitalized on our corners,” Thornton said. “In the last couple of games we haven’t been able to do that, but finally finished on those opportunities. Our defense also did a fantastic job. I don’t think they get enough credit for what they do.”

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Rocky Point's field hockey team celebrates its first Suffolk County championship title since 2014. After losing to Miller Place in the county finals the last two years, Rocky Point shut out the Panthers 4-0 Oct. 28. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Rocky Point head coach Katie Bittner felt different about this county playoff game.

For the first time after her pregame ritual, which involves showing a picture slideshow to her field hockey team, she wasn’t crying.

Bella Fusco passes the ball up the field. Photo by Bill Landon

“I always tell them I get very nervous before games, and I always get very scared before a county game because it could mean goodbye,” the coach said. “But they looked at me after we did our picture slideshow and they said, ‘Look, she’s not crying.’ And I wasn’t crying, because today I knew wouldn’t be goodbye.”

Bella Fusco fulfilled Bittner’s prophecy, finding the back of the cage twice in her Rocky Point field hockey team’s 4-0 blanking of Miller Place for the Suffolk County Class B crown Oct. 28.

“We wanted it a lot more — we’ve been working for so long, we work hard, we practice, we run a lot to stay in shape, and we just deserved it,” Fusco said. “We’re all a big family so to move on [to the Long Island Championship], nothing could be sweeter.”

Fusco, a sophomore at top-seeded Rocky Point, scored her first goal nine minutes into the contest off a pass from Sara Giammarella. The senior set the tone 40 seconds later, when she rocked the back of the box with a hard hit off of a feed from senior Christiana Bellissimo for a 2-0 lead at the 20:20 mark. But Giammarella was quick not to take all of the credit.

“It’s our defense,” she said of what helped her Eagles soar. “Nicki Taveras holds our backs on the defensive side; she’s a wall, no one can get past her. And Lizzy Wiener, she’s awesome, just fantastic.”

Miller Place’s Nicole Beck and Rocky Point’s Sara Giammarella fight for the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Rocky Point proved faster to the ball, passed cleanly and pressured the No. 2 Panthers, which struggled to get the ball past midfield.

With 12:51 left in the first half, Fusco struck on a crossing pass from senior Emily Molinaro for a 3-0 advantage at the break.

Deflated, opportunity came knocking for Miller Place when Rocky Point went a down a player with 24 minutes left in regulation, but was unable to capitalize.

Senior forward Hannah Luchsinger scored the final goal on a solo shot to close out the scoring for the Eagles, which had previously lost to Miller Place in the last two county finals matchups.

“I have 10 seniors who want it [more than anything else],” Bittner said. “I have 10 seniors who have gone to the county championship the past three years and have not won it, so all I saw today was heart.”

Rocky Point will face Garden City in the Long Island championship Nov. 1 at Newfield High School at 6:30 p.m. The Eagles last faced the Trojans when the team made it to the regional game in 2014.

Rocky Point’s field hockey team shut out Miller Place 4-0 for the team’s first Suffolk County Class B title since 2014. Photo by Bill Landon

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By Bill Landon

Lexi Reinhardt wasn’t concerned about being down 1-0, even with just 12 minutes left in the game.

Poised and prepared, Ward Melville’s junior field hockey standout slammed home the Patriots’ two goals in 2-1 come-from-behind win over Sachem East  Oct. 28 for the program’s third straight Suffolk County Class A title.

“We were just trying to stay positive, keep the pressure going,” she said. “It took us a little while to come back, but we knew we had to work together and get the ball in the net. And that’s what we did.”

After a scoreless first half, Sachem East’s Emily Rodriguez broke the ice at the 25-minute mark.

The Flaming Arrows’ defense proved it was up to the task of guarding against a Ward Melville attack that outscored opponents 62-13 during the regular season, but senior midfielder Kate Mulham said she knew it was only a matter of time until her Patriots would strike.

“Our team prides itself on its composure and our ability to be resilient even when faced with adversity, like being down 1-0 to a really strong team like Sachem East,” the co-captain said. “We all know our individual strengths and our team’s strengths, and we knew that if we kept up our style of play eventually the goals would fall.”

Reinhardt relished in a penalty shot attempt, and fired home a goal to tie the game with 11:27 left to play. With 4:50 left in regulation, junior forward Caitlin Evans scooped up possession amid a pile of players off a corner attempt, and flicked a pass to Reinhardt, who put the game away with the go-ahead goal.

“It was great to get that stroke to break the ice a little bit and to keep our attack pushing and pushing,” Ward Melville head coach Shannon Sioss said. “[Sachem East’s] defense was extremely strong today, and we were just lucky that we had a lot of opportunities. We had our fingers crossed that hopefully we would be able to break through that defense at least once.”

The Patriots extend their undefeated streak to 18-0, and will represent Suffolk in the Long Island regional championship game against Massapequa Nov. 1 at Newfield High School at 2:30 p.m.

“Winning county championship brings a lot of pride to us — it’s a confidence booster and we’re going to carry it on to our next game,” Reinhardt said. “Hopefully win and keep this streak going with this positive vibe as we go on.”

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By Bill Landon

Comsewogue senior Hannah Dorney recalled the first time her field hockey team played Bay Shore, losing a close 2-1 game back on Sept. 13.

“We went into the game today thinking about last time, and just how devastating that loss was,” Dorney said. “It was a long bus ride home, and [the whole time] you’re thinking, ‘What could we have done better?’”

This time, the No. 9-seeded Warriors had the offense to support a solid defense, to pull away with a 3-2 win over No. 8 Bay Shore in the first round of the Class A playoffs Oct. 17.

Sophomore Kayleigh Mimnaugh had two goals in the win, scoring first on a flick pass from junior Sophia Azzara and the game-winner on a player-down opportunity and a feed from senior Gabriella Ventura.

With the teams tied 1-1 heading into halftime after her first tally, she said a pep talk from head coach Jacqueline Wilkom got her juices flowing.

“Our halftime speech from the coach really pumped us up, and I think that we just worked harder overall in that second half,” Mimnaugh said. “We played well defensively.”

Dorney took working harder to heart, and opened the second half with a takeaway, outrunning defenders behind her as she carried the ball from the 35-yard line to the front of the cage for a solo shot and a 2-1 advantage.

Comsewogue had trouble capitalizing on its opportunities though, as Bay Shore committed six fouls in the striking circle, leading to six consecutive penalty corner shots from which the Warriors came away empty.

Being a player down for a majority of the second half — 20 minutes — defense was the name of the game for Comsewogue, but Bay Shore finally broke through, retying the game with 15:38 left to play.

Azzara said she was somewhat surprised with how her team weathered the storm in the second half.

“Honestly, I didn’t think we’d come out here and do this well against them,” she said. “But I knew we had it in us — we work really well together and we’re very close, so I think that helped us.”

Comsewogue, on a five-game winning streak, improves to 12-3 and advances to face No. 1 undefeated Ward Melville on the road Friday, Oct. 20 at 2:30 p.m.

“We have a talented group of girls — they’re fantastic athletes, and it’s just a matter of them coming out and giving it all that they have,” Wilkom said. “And so long as we play our game, I don’t think that there’s any team we can’t beat.”

For the Warriors, this bus ride home will be different.

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Northport's Kristen Roethel dribbles the ball up the field. Photo by Jen Holden

By Jen Holden

Northport’s field hockey is at it again.

For the sixth time this season, the visiting Tigers secured a shutout and, this time, with a 6-0 blanking of Connetquot Oct. 10, earned a postseason berth.

Northport’ Lilly Fox sets up a pass. Photo by Jen Holden

Senior Olivia Lewis scored the first goal five minutes in, on her way to a hat trick. She scored twice in the first half.

“We did a good job possessing the ball,” Lewis said. “It was in our half almost the entire game. We moved the ball well and our off-ball movement was good. We did a good job keeping it from the
other team.

Junior Lily Fox added a goal and one assist, scoring off a penalty shot, and junior forward Taryn Saturno rounded out the scoring for the first half, 4-0, on a corner shot.

“We had a lot of different players come in and we definitely used the width of the field.” Fox said.

Saturno said her teammates worked on sharing the wealth.

“I think we did a really good job like playing as a team and passing to each other and working for the ball and assists early,” Saturno said. “[The team] made sure that we each got equal opportunities to get some good goals.”

The second half challenged the Tigers’ stamina as the Thunderbirds applied pressure — forcing Northport passes and allowing Connetquot to steal the ball and gain two breakaway chances.

Northport’s Olivia Lewis passes the ball across the field. Photo by Jen Holden

The Tigers were able to slow the game and regain control of the ball, allowing the Thunderbirds just three shots on goal, all of which were blocked by sophomore goalie Hayley Hayden. The midfield also blocked Connetquot from gaining yards in the Tigers’ zone.

Lewis scored again before sophomore Kate McLam rounded out the scoring, 6-0, for the 10-3 Tigers.

Northport head coach, Gina Walling said she’s happy how her team has developed since the start of the season, and thinks they’re on the path toward success.

“They did a good job focusing on playing their game, maintaining their game and working on things they needed to work on,” she said.

The Tigers walked off the field with smiles on their faces and their sights now set on a state finals appearance.

“They are starting to put it together,” Walling said. “It’s great for postseason.”

Northport will visit Sachem East Oct. 12 at 4:30 p.m. before playing Garden City in a nonleague game at Veterans Park Complex, Northport, Oct. 14 3:30 p.m.

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Mairead Micheline moves the ball into the circle amid a pack of defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

For Paloma Blatter, confirmation counts.

Paloma Blatter dribbles the ball up the field. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With seven minutes remaining in a 0-0 game against Patchogue-Medford, the Comsewogue field hockey sophomore scored on a scrum in front of the cage to win it, in an away game for the Warriors Sept. 26.

“It felt great personally to know you won it for your team, but getting the pats on the back from your teammates is the best approval you could ever get,” the midfielder said. “There’s nothing more important than putting it all on the line for your team.”

Comsewogue had some chances in the first half, but the team came up empty on several corner attempts. Sophomore defender Olivia Fantigrossi said the team is working on that aspect of its game but is still struggling with communication and obstruction calls. She said she was impressed though with her team’s grit.

“Going into the circle we have hard hits and good accuracy,” she said. “I think we were also successful blocking hits and sending them off the sideline to prevent the other team from getting a goal.”

Comsewogue head coach Jacqueline Wilkom said Fantigrossi flies all over the field when needed.

“She was out on every ball,” she said.

Her captain, senior midfielder Hannah Dorney, also wowed the coach.

Hannah Dorney battles for the ball at midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Hannah Dorney is a great athlete and really helped with leading the field,” Wilkom said. “She led the pep talk at halftime and they came out with a lot more intensity and they wanted to play.”

After losing nine seniors and the entire defensive unit to graduation after last season, Dorney said she too likes what she’s seeing from the young squad.

“We passed a lot better than we usually do,” she said. “We tend to get caught dribbling from one end of the field to the other, but today we worked the ball around more and from one side of the field to the other. We talked more in the second half, looked up, saw the options and we had the opportunities, we just weren’t finishing. We can’t let the ball slip past us as much.”

Wilkom said the team works hard and puts in the effort to improve. She said the girls are frequently seen dancing around the locker room before games, but she just hopes that energy can carry onto the field.

Olivia Fantigrossi gets in front to steal a Patchogue-Medford pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“They pump each other up and they want to play,” she said. “And I think that’s important. They want to be a team to be reckoned with and our motto ‘surrender the me for the we’ will help us do that. We need all 11 players working together as a unit to get that win.”

Blatter said she agreed that motivation needs to be there from whistle to whistle.

“We always find a way to come together as a team, even in our losses,” she said. “We’re always together and lifting each other up, especially this season, but we need to work on stepping onto the field and putting everything in it from the minute the timer starts to the minute it ends. If we can come out like we know we can in the beginning we’ll be a tough team to beat this year.”

Wilkom said the rise in the standings has added extra incentive — especially after going from a 3-11 team last year, to now currently boasting a 7-2 Division I record.

“We went from being in the 20s to fifth in the standings,” she said. “That’s a big deal for us — to be a team that people want to come out and beat.”

By Bill Landon

Shoreham-Wading River was on a hot streak — scoring 27 goals in the first three games of the field hockey season, all of which were shutouts. That spotless streak came to an end with a 3-1 loss to a tough Harborfields team Sept. 12.

“We were very worried and concerned about Shoreham,” Harborfields head coach Lauren Desiderio said. “They were blowouts, and that’s beyond impressive.”

The Tornadoes showed no worry or concern, as midfielder Gianna Bifulco dished the ball off to forward Jenelle Bennardo for the first goal of the game 11 minutes in. Not used to playing on grass, the Wildcats seemed to struggle.

“The ball moves very slowly on grass, and everyone reaches the ball more quickly. but I think we adjusted well in the second half,” Shoreham-Wading River junior Michele Corona said. “We just needed to talk more towards the end and we need to work on that in our next game.”

Opportunity came knocking again for Harborfields, and Sarah DeVito answered for a 2-0 lead with 11:26 left in the half.

“I’m not going to lie, I was really intimidated when we were told what their record was coming in,” DeVito said. “And all day in school, especially in math class, every couple of questions the numbers zero, three and 27 would pop into my head.”

On a penalty shot, Harborfields Sarah Gray put her team out front 3-0.

“We thought we were on the lower end,” said Gray. “But we were excited to get in the game and show them that we’re here to play.”

The Wildcats had no answer by halftime, but with 16:03 left in regulation, Harborfields went a man down, and Shoreham-Wading River looked to capitalize, but squandered the opportunity.

“They have a lot of skilled players and they’re very fast,” Harborfields Desiderio said. “They have skilled players and they did a good job putting pressure on us. I was pleased with our transition.”

Shoreham-Wading River found the box nine minutes later when Corona’s solo shot took the zero off the scoreboard to close the gap, but the team would come no closer.

With the win Harborfields improves to 2-1 and will see action today, Sept. 14 at Greenport-Southholdat 4:30 p.m. Shoreham-Wading River hits the road the same day to face Miller Place at 5:45 p.m.

“We’re so used to playing on a smooth surface we’re a passing team and that’s much more effective on turf,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Jenna Stevenson said. “It’s our first loss of the season and we’ll look to see where our weaknesses were in this game and improve — get back on a winning streak.”

By Bill Landon

Shenendehowa has given the Ward Melville field hockey team a run for its money the last two seasons — outscoring the Patriots by one goal in the state semifinals last season and in double overtime in the state finals the year before. But this season, the Rocky Point field hockey team was first to press its luck with Ward Melville, forcing a shootout that the Patriots pulled away perfect from, 3-0, for the first win of the season.

“Respect to Rocky Point — they are a very aggressive and talented team, so I knew this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park,” Ward Melville head coach Shannon Sioss said of its nonleague opponent. “In fact, we like to schedule our nonleagues to be competitive games — it helps us see where our weaknesses are and what we need to work on.”

“We have a really experienced senior class and they’ve been down this road the last couple of years, so they’re on a mission right now.”

—Shannon Sioss

Rocky Point was first to find the back of the cage when senior midfielder Madison Sanchez dished the ball to senior forward Emily Molinaro.

The Patriots had to shake off the cobwebs when they found themselves battling a scrappy, in-your-face Eagles squad that caused several turnovers, and Ward Melville senior forward Kerri Thornton was first to break the ice. She evened the score for the Patriots with four minutes left until the halftime break, and rocked the back of the box on another solo with nine minutes left in the game for Ward Melville’s first lead.

“We have a really experienced senior class and they’ve been down this road the last couple of years, so they’re on a mission right now,” Sioss said. “I thought that Shannon Coughlan held the middle of our field today and Kerri Thornton is always up for a good challenge, so it’s fun to watch her play.”

Thornton said her team took the game very serious, knowing Rocky Point’s pedigree.

“I knew that Rocky Point was going to be good because they always battle with Miller Place in the county final,” the senior said. “So I wasn’t coming into this game thinking ‘oh, we’re going to win [this game easily, and as it turned out we had our hands full].”

Ward Melville drew a costly yellow card that led to Rocky Point defender Elizabeth Weiner scoring on a penalty shot to tie the game with four minutes remaining.

“We were right in this game and we deserved to be in this game,” said Rocky Point head coach Katie Bittner. “In the beginning we dominated, we scored first, and I think Ward Melville woke up a little bit, but we also got a little tired.”

“We were right in this game and we deserved to be in this game. “In the beginning we dominated…”

—Katie Bittner

Despite being a player down in the final minute of regulation, the Eagles held their own until the clock expired. Ward Melville, still a man up, tried to take home the win in sudden death overtime, but the Eagles returned to full strength two minutes in without Ward Melville getting a shot off. Rocky Point went down a player yet again in the final four minutes, but neither team could score.

“I don’t think that they played bad or that we got lucky — I honestly think that we were the better team,” Bittner said. “We made some mental mistakes that put us a man down, but when the field is this big, it’s huge that we held our own with our five field players to their six.”

Then came the best-of-five shootout, where Thornton and seniors Lexi Reinhardt and Kate Mulham helped Ward Melville to the 3-0 win, while goalkeeper Meghan Lorenzen guarded the Patriots’ cage to keep Rocky Point off the board.

Ward Melville will host Riverhead Sept. 6 at 4:15 p.m. Rocky Point opens its league season at home Sept. 7, hosting Sayville at 4 p.m.

Despite the loss, Bittner has realistic goals for her team this year.

“I’m not looking for an undefeated season by any means, I’m looking to get us to where [Ward Melville] got last year, which is a state championship,” she said. “And with this group, I know they can do it. This was truly a learning experience.”

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Jackie Brown sends the ball up the field. Photo by Carla Sciara

By Desirée Keegan

The relationship between a star player and a coach can sometimes be complicated, but when they’re immediate family members, a special bond is needed to achieve success.

Jackie Brown’s athletic career has been unique — her mother Deb Brown has been coaching her for five years in both field hockey and softball at Port Jefferson high school, and was her basketball coach for two years. Despite having her mother as coach, playing time and accolades were never handed to her.

Jackie Brown was Long Island's leading goal scorer, and led in overall points this season. Photo by Carla Sciara
Jackie Brown was Long Island’s leading goal scorer, and led in overall points this season. Photo by Carla Sciara

“If anything, she’s probably had to work even harder with me being her coach,” Deb Brown said. “I hold her to a higher standard, and I put more pressure on her than anyone else. For instance, in practice, she does the most push-ups.”

Brown recalled a game when her daughter had a one-on-one with a goalkeeper and she told her daughter to do one move, but she did another. “I’m yelling at her, and that’s when the parent in me comes out,” she said. “As beautiful as it was, the ball did not go in.”

Jackie Brown said the constant push has aided her success in sports, especially field hockey.

“It’s definitely interesting,” she said of their relationship, laughing. “Sometimes I tried to step over her and she puts me in my place, but what’s great is we got to talk about all of the games afterward whether it’s me saying something bad or her giving me something to work on. She teaches me new things every year.”

Brown first picked up a field hockey stick at 6 years old. From there, she became involved in clinics and played for East End Field Hockey travel team. She decided to try clinics in basketball and softball, too, and joined the Long Island Bandits fast-pitch travel softball team.

“Believe it or not I thought she would gear toward softball,” Deb Brown said. “But she just loved field hockey so much. It’s been fun watching her grow as a player.”

Jackie Brown said field hockey ran in her blood thanks to regular visits as a young girl to the field with her mother, who has been coaching at Port Jefferson for 27 years. She said the style of the sport felt like a fit for her.

“It wasn’t the sport everyone else was playing, and I liked how you had to move the ball a certain way and work with your teammates,” Jackie Brown said. “A lot I learned from field hockey, like field position and power, also helped me play softball and basketball.”

Speaking of power, the midfielder and forward has a strong shot, along with the knowledge of nuances needed to score, which helped her become Long Island’s leading goal scorer and leader in overall points this season.

Jackie Brown is hoisted up by the 2007 Royals field hockey team following the Long Island championship. Photo from Nancy Gallagher
Jackie Brown is hoisted up by the 2007 Royals field hockey team following the Long Island championship. Photo from Nancy Gallagher

“Besides just having a good shot — a hard hit and accurate — her ability to read the defense and the goalkeeper makes it much easier for her to get around them and beat them,” Port Jefferson assistant coach Nancy Gallagher said.

Gallagher is also in a special position. She played for Deb Brown and graduated from Port Jefferson in 2010. She first met Jackie when the coach’s daughter would come to games when Gallagher was a player. The assistant coach remembered the team hoisting her up on their shoulders following big wins, and the girls would teach her the tricks of the trade.

“She’d practice, and I’d tell her to do it 100 times in a row if she wanted to get better, and she was so eager to learn that she’d sit there on the sidelines doing it 100 times in a row,” Gallagher said. “She’s the ideal player to coach because not only does she have the athletic ability to pick up skills quickly, but she’s also willing to put in the time and energy to make it an instinctive part of her play.”

Gallagher said the athlete not only knows the skills, but she understands what skills are used when and why, and then how to put them to use.

Adelphi University field hockey head coach Gloria O’Connor saw each attribute Jackie Brown possesses — even the field hockey standout’s recent 6-inch growth spurt.

“Jackie has great size and feel for the game,” O’Connor said. “She is a daughter of a coach, and therefore knows the game of field hockey from a whole different perspective. She competes hard, has passion and desire and is always putting in extra practice time. She demonstrates the ability of taking care of business both on and off the field.”

The feeling of knowing the team wanted her, and the fact that Adelphi felt like a “home away from home,” led Brown to sign a letter of intent this November to play with the Panthers.

As a member of three high school teams, vice president of the Student Organization, co-president of the Varsity Club and a member of the Yearbook Club and National Honor Society, Brown knows what it means to put in the time to improve.

Jackie Brown is surrounded by her family as she signs her letter of intent to play field hockey for Adelphi University. Photo from Port Jefferson school district
Jackie Brown is surrounded by her family as she signs her letter of intent to play field hockey for Adelphi University. Photo from Port Jefferson school district

“It’s a lot to juggle when I go from one practice to the other, and then come home and do homework before going to another practice, but it’s manageable,” she said. “I learned how to be a leader on the field, work with my teammates and develop a strong work ethic.”

As Brown departs for college in 2017, her mother said she too may be hanging up her whistle at Port Jefferson. The head coach will receive a coach of the year award during the Suffolk County awards dinner, while her daughter will receive her second All-State honor and an All-Tournament nod following the No. 2-seeded Royals’ appearance in the Class C county finals.

Gallagher said the recognitions are well deserved, especially for her former coach.

“She’s very humble,” Gallagher said of Deb Brown. “No one can argue about how much she cares and dedicates herself to these girls and to this program. The success not only during these past couple of season but over her whole tenure shows it.”

Despite a hesitancy to talk about her daughter, Brown is even more proud of the success her daughter has had over the years than her own accolades.

“When I have to get the job done I do rely on her heavily to get the job done for Port Jeff,” Brown said. “I kind of downplay what she has accomplished over the years, but she’s worked very hard for this, and she deserves recognition. I’m probably retiring this year, so it’s bittersweet, but it’s great to go out with her after how well she’s done. I’m very proud of her. It’s been a heck of a ride.”

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