By Bill Landon
After a slow start, the Ward Melville girls’ lacrosse team kicked it into high gear to top Sachem North, 14-6, on the Patriots’ home turf Tuesday in their final game of the regular season.
After a senior day celebration for the 13 girls graduating on the roster, Ward Melville went to work.
Senior attack Samantha Nemirov dished one off to fellow classmate Alex Vignona, an attack and co-captain, who drove the ball home. Five minutes later, Ward Melville senior midfielder and co-captain Kayla Purdy found the back of the cage unassisted, to help her team pull out in front, 2-0.
Sachem North fired two straight shots to tie the game, but Ward Melville senior attack Katlyn Scarpinella, on a penalty play from the circle, faked a shot and flicked the ball over to Nemirov, who dumped it into the corner to help her team pull out in front, 3-2, to end the scoring in the first half.
“We came out strong early in the game. but they had a lot of good looks at the cage and they really ran our defense well,” Ward Melville head coach Kerri Kilkenny said. “We came out on fire in the second half, we sparked it on transition, we were more aggressive on the draw controls and we pushed forward.”
Ward Melville senior Catherine Smith, an attack and co-captain, got the ball rolling two minutes into the second half with a shot between the pipes, and Vignona and Nemirov connected on another play, this time, with Vignona assisting, as the team edged ahead 5-2. Nemirov returned the favor and dished one off to sophomore midfielder Kerry McKeever, whose shot found its mark with 19:30 left to play.
Ward Melville sophomore attack Kaitlin Thornton hit Nemirov, who was cutting across the front of the net, and whipped it in for her hat trick goal, and junior attack Holly Regan scored unassisted to give her team a commanding 8-2 lead.
“I think we started off a little slow early in the game,” Nemirov said, “But then we were able to put the pieces together and finish strong.”
With 13 minutes left Sachem North notched two unanswered goals, but Ward Melville’s Thornton and Nemirov scored next to bring the score to 10-4.
“We stepped it up in the second half,” Thornton said. “We won the draw and we pushed the ball to the cage.”
Sachem North’s defense picked off a pass near the crease and with three quick passes, the team advanced the ball the length of the field and found the net to trail by five.
Plagued by penalties, Ward Melville’s opponent was down two players, and Kilkenny said she was impressed with her team’s poise against Sachem North’s aggressive style of play.
“The girls held their composure through all of their yellow cards and aggressive play, and I was pleased with their discipline,” she said.
Another yellow card left Ward Melville up three players, and the Patriots looked to cash in on the opportunity.
Regan scored on a penalty shot, Nemirov tacked on another, and Purdy also scored off a penalty shot to bring the score to 13-5 with 1:32 left in the game.
“In the second half we just went to goal more — we were smarter with our passes,” Regan said. “We were making smart looks in the middle and our shooting percentage went up.”
Sachem North wouldn’t go quietly and stretched the net once more before Vignona tacked on the final goal of the game in the closing seconds, to put it away, 14-6.
“We were very excited at the start of the game because it was senior day,” Vignona said. “In the second half we picked it up, we were hitting our passes and we hit the back of the net, so it was just awesome for our senior day to win this one.”
With the win, the Patriots improve to 10-4 in Division I. As the No. 6 seed, the Patriots will play No. 11 Half Hollow Hills West on Saturday, May 16, in the first round of the playoffs. The opening draw is scheduled for noon.