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Rachel Masullo

Mad Dogs win program’s first state semifinal game, fall in overtime in Class A state final

The Middle Country girls lacrosse team at a banquet upstate following the team's first Class A state semifinal win. Photo from Amanda Masullo

It wasn’t the ending the Middle Country girls lacrosse team had hoped for, but the Mad Dogs returned from the trip upstate with a few more firsts for the program.

The team had already nabbed the elusive Suffolk County Class A title with a 13-3 win over Northport, and another first with a Long Island championship crown following a 10-9 edging of Massapequa.

As a result, the Mad Dogs had the opportunity to take their first trip upstate. In the semifinals against North Rockland, the team continued its magical run, and the Masullo twins led the way. Amanda scored six goals and Rachel had four goals and two assists in a decisive 20-7 win at SUNY-Cortland June 9.

Amanda Masullo. File photo by Bill Landon

“Helping my team win the semifinal game, and doing it along with my twin sister was a great experience, and it made me so proud of my team,” said Rachel Masullo, who added she knew she and her twin had to step up their game in the wake of Jamie Ortega and Ava Barry being face-guarded for much of the game. “Assisting my teammates is also a great feeling though, knowing that I was a part of our push forward on the field.”

She said she enjoyed sharing the moments she and her sister had together on the field, often assisting on each other’s goals.

“It’s easy for me and Amanda to connect on the field, because we’re always together and we know what each other is going to do,” Masullo said. “Making it this far with my team was what we’ve been striving for all these years, and to make it as a senior and to have my best friends by my side made it that much better.”

Amanda Masullo also had words regarding her sister.

“She’s the one that makes me work harder, and be better,” she said. “I’m so grateful for that.”

Although Ortega, the nation’s No. 1 lacrosse prospect who is bound for the University of South Carolina and also became New York’s all-time leading scorer during the Long Island championship win, was the main focus of the North Rockland defense, she still managed to make her presence felt, netting five goals and adding three assists. But the Masullos quickly put Middle Country ahead of North Rockland (18-3).

Rachel Masullo. File photo by Bill Landon

“We always have plays to get me open,” Ortega said of being heavily guarded. “Usually I can get out of them, so I’m pretty used to it by now.”

Consecutive goals from Amanda Masullo late in the first half pushed the lead to 8-1, including a score in which she picked up a ground ball and sprinted around nearly the entire defense for a close look at the cage. Then, when North Rockland threatened by closing the deficit to four goals at 9-5, Rachel Masullo scored twice to push the lead back to six.

Those two tallies started a run in which Middle Country scored 10 of the final 12 goals. Barry scored each of her three goals in that span. Her second goal gave Middle Country a 16-6 lead with 12:44 remaining, prompting the running clock that comes with a 10-goal advantage.

“Our defense was very strong this weekend,” Rachel Masullo said. “And Jamie, Ava and Jen [Barry, Ava’s younger sister] dominated on the draw, which made it that much easier.”

Following the win, Middle Country battled Pittsford, another team that had yet to win a state title. Ortega sent a rocket shot on a player-up situation for the equalizer late in the game, and won the ensuing draw for the Mad Dogs, who held on for a final shot, but Pittsford’s Michelle Messenger saved a skip-shot with four seconds left to ensure overtime. Middle Country ended up losing, 10-9, in overtime.

“The game’s never over until the buzzer goes off,” said Ortega, who had four goals and an assist and finished her varsity career with 588 points, more than any girls lacrosse player in state history. “We know how fast we can score a goal. It could be 10 seconds.”

Jamie Ortega. Photo by Bill Landon

The run to tie wouldn’t have been possible without the help of all of the Middle Country starters. Pittsford led 5-2 before a 5-0 run spanning the end of the first half and the beginning of the second, bookended by Ortega goals that gave Middle Country a 7-5 lead. Ava Barry scored twice and assisted on both of Ortega’s goals — the second tied the game — and Sophie Alois, who scored the opening goal of the game, gave the Mad Dogs the lead for the second time, scoring the opening goal of the second half to bring the score to 6-5.

“I think it was a mood changer to score the opening goal of each half,” Alois said. “Our coach always says that energy is contagious, and today, my teammates all created an encouraging and energetic environment that everyone fed off of. I was just happy to add onto it.”

Alois said her team knew the pressure was on, and Pittsford answered with a 4-0 spurt of its own for the 9-7 lead that added extra weight back onto the Mad Dogs’ shoulders.

“We emphasized remaining calm, dodging and moving the ball quickly,” Alois said. “It’s easy to throw the ball away or rush a play when pressure is present. When I got the ball, I knew the importance of every possession. With this in mind, I made sure to fake my shot and place it to ensure a point for my team.”

Rachel Masullo fed Barry to pull within one, 9-8, and Ortega tied things up to force two three-minute overtime sessions. With the game still tied 9-9 at the end of the first three minutes, the teams switched sides, and a Pittsford (20-1) free position shot that was initially saved rolled in with 1:55 left to end the game.

Ava Barry. Photo by Bill Landon

“I think our mentality really helped spark a comeback,” Alois said. “Every timeout or stoppage of play, we all gave each other constant reminders that the game wasn’t over and that anything was possible. We kept playing until the final seconds.”

Following the final seconds, Ortega was still shaken up by the loss.

“I didn’t want my last game ever to represent Middle Country to end like that,” she said. “I just knew my team needed me and I needed to be there for them. Now that it’s over, it feels like a piece of me is gone, but I couldn’t be happier on how far we went and how hard we worked and pushed each other. These last few years have really been a journey.”

After the dust settled, Rachel Masullo said she thought some sloppy plays and minor mistakes contributed to the team’s collapse. Her sister said the team wasn’t used to battling against a tough defense, adding she was disappointed the team couldn’t pull through for who she thought really deserved it.

“No matter how much we were down, or how much time we had left, whether it be 10 minutes or two, our coaches never let us give up,” Amanda Masullo said. “The whole team not only wanted to win for each other, but for them, because they really deserve it. I’m just upset that we couldn’t pull through for them.”

Sophie Alois carries the ball to the crease. Photo by Bill Landon

Rachel Masullo said she thought the motivation and determination the team showed in battling back is what Middle Country athletics is all about, and she’s proud of how she’ll be leaving the program.

“This program has made me into not only a better lacrosse player, but a better person all around,” she said. “I won’t ever forget what this team has taught me these past five years, and I definitely made memories that will last a lifetime.”

Amanda Masullo said teams better continue to watch out for Middle Country.

“I’ve seen us go from the team who everyone knew they could beat, the team that would go crazy when we finally won a game, to the team who no other team wanted to play because they were afraid,” she said. “That’s something that amazes me, and thinking about it, it makes me realize that me and the other seniors have something to do with that. I’m grateful to have been able to play alongside these other amazing girls, and I will never forget how far we’ve come, and the history we made along the way.”

Middle Country’s Rachel Masullo hoists up her team’s new hardware after Middle Country outscored Northport 13-3 ofr the program’s first Suffolk County championship. Photo by Desirée Keegan

 

By Bill Landon

With 46 seconds left on the clock, it all came down to a single draw for Middle Country’s girls’ lacrosse team, which, leading 10-9, needed a crucial possession win to try and bring home the Mad Dogs’ first Long Island championship title in program history.

With Jennifer Barry taking the draw, her older sister Ava, a senior, said she spoke to her of the draw’s importance.

Jamie Ortegan drives to the goal. Photo by Bill Landon

“’You have to block everything out,’” Ava Barry said she told her sister. “’I told her, ‘you’re great at this, we’ve practiced this.’ She knew she had to get it, and she did.”

Senior Jamie Ortega was there to scoop up the ball, and with it, the school district’s first Long Island Class A title with a 10-9 win over Massapequa at Adelphi University June 4.

“It feels great — I’m so happy for them,” Middle Country head coach Lindsay Dolson said of the win. “They grinded until the last second, and that’s what we needed them to do.”

It wasn’t the only title that Ortega grabbed Sunday.

The University of North Carolina-bound senior needed three points to become New York’s leading point-scorer. The nation’s top lacrosse recruit, who leads Suffolk County with 130 points off 89 goals and 41 assists, surpassed Northport’s Shannon Gilroy’s record of 570 points.

Ava Barry cuts up the field. Photo by Bill Landon

She did it fast, too, during Middle Country’s first three goals. First, she fed senior Amanda Masullo to tie the game, 1-1, and on a man-up advantage, passed to an open Sophie Alois, who found the back of the goal to retie the game 2-2. With the score knotted 3-3 after Ortega scored on an feed from senior Ava Barry, and her teammate returned the favor to help Ortega pass Gilroy and give Middle Country its first lead of the game. And Ortega didn’t stop there. She scored again as the Mad Dogs went on a 4-1 run to lead 7-4 at the break.

“When I beat the record it felt really nice, but winning that game was my biggest goal,” Ortega said. “Being recognized for my achievements makes me really proud, but the ride this entire team has been on has been one for the books.”

Barry scored on a cut, and fed Ortega her hat trick goal for a 9-4 lead to open the second half. Massapequa rattled off two unanswered goals before Ortega and Barry connected again.

That’s when things began to break down for Middle Country. The team wasn’t winning the draws, and the extra possessions led to a 5-0 Massapequa run.

“I was so nervous,” Barry said of the scoring streak. “We came out hard and we were racking up points, and then all of a sudden, we weren’t getting the draw like we were.”

She said she thinks her team lost focus, but said a timeout call settled the team down.

Rachel Masullo sends a shot toward the netting. Photo by Bill Landon

“We [started] to panic,” Ortega said. “We brought it in [during the timeout] and we knew we had to keep up our defense. We knew they could score again, and thankfully, we were able to hold them.”

Behind Ortega’s three goals and four assists, was Ava Barry with a hat trick and two assists. Alois netted two goals, and twin sisters Rachel and Amanda Masullo each scored once, with Rachel also feeding on a goal. Senior Emily Walsh made five saves between the pipes.

The Mad Dogs carry a potent offense into the state semifinal game June 9, where the Mad Dogs will take take on North Rockland in the state semifinals at SUNY Cortland at 4:30 p.m.

Dolson joked she’s not only hoping to pull out a win for her special senior class, but also for a little battle she has going on at home.

“My husband won his state championship with his wrestling team at Mattituck,” she said. “So now I need to get mine.”

Ortega thinks they’re on the right track to get there.

“I really think we could win states if we play to our full potential,” she said. “It’s something that I always dreamed about and finally bringing home that win means the world to me and to my team.  We worked so hard, we have such a talented team and we are so close. I know that we can continue to make history.”

Desirée Keegan contributed reporting

It was hammer time for Middle Country’s Jamie Ortega, as the sideline sang her goal-scoring song five times in the girls’ lacrosse team’s 13-3 win over Northport May 30.

“You can’t touch this,” they screamed louder and louder with each goal.

Ortega stepped out on the field Tuesday ready to finish what her older sister Nikki had started more than five years ago — win the program’s first Class A Suffolk County championship. Nikki Ortega had led the Mad Dogs further and further into the postseason over her six-year varsity career until she graduated two years ago, and her younger sister has been steering the wheel ever since.

“I wanted to do this for her,” Jamie Ortega said. “And I wanted to play for all those seniors that didn’t have the opportunity to. We finished it for them. We didn’t want that feeling again.”

That feeling she referred to was the devastation after each loss at the hands of West Islip over the last three seasons — twice in the semis and once in the finals.

This time, although the foe wasn’t as familiar, Middle Country knew it couldn’t take its opponent lightly. No. 5 Northport was fresh off an 8-7 upset over nationally ranked No. 1 Ward Melville.

“We were nervous,” said senior Ava Barry, who scored a goal and had five assists. “It’s hard to beat a team twice. Any team can win on any given day.”

Middle Country is also ranked nationally, featuring the top lacrosse recruit in the nation in Ortega. The senior pulled out a similar showing to when the Mad Dogs completed a 14-5 win over the Tigers May 8. Ortega finished that game with four goals and two assists.

She scored three goals and had one assist at the end of the first half in the final. She completed her hat trick when, after passing to Barry who couldn’t find a clear lane near the circle, sent a pass back to Ortega and who fired her shot home for a five-goal lead, 6-1.

“It’s my last year and I knew that this was the time to step up and play ‘all in,’” the University of North Carolina-bound midfielder said. “I’m so proud of this team.”

The team was “all in” from one end of the field to the other. The defense held Northport to 12 shots, and senior goalie Emily Walsh made nine saves. Jennifer Barry, Ava’s younger sister, led Middle Country to a 13-5 draw advantage, with Ortega also pulling away with some draw wins. The offense had nine assists on its 13 goals.

“Our defense was great, we came up so big on so many stops in goal and had so many extra possessions that we took advantage of,” Ortega said. “We knew if we got the extra possession and made them turn over the ball that we could calm down and make a good play out of it.”

Barry had passed to Ortega for her second goal and dished the ball to senior Rachel Masullo for a 7-1 lead. Ortega and Barry made another pass-back move on the opening goal of the second half, after Ortega forced a turnover behind Northport’s goal.

“My teammates were making great cuts, got open really well and helped me be able to make the passes to them,” Barry said.  “When the sidelines get involved in the game it’s fun, it’s exciting. You always want your sideline to be cheering your team on.”

After a brief second-half hiccup, with Northport’s Emerson Cabrera putting her team’s first goal on the scoreboard since the 11-minute mark of the first half, Middle Country got right back to work. Head coach Lindsay Dolson never slowed down her team, saying the girls like to use their speed, and the team racked up three more goals before Northport scored its final goal of the game. She also said the win gave the team some needed confidence. But Ortega said she told her team they were capable all along.

“I told my teammates we shouldn’t be nervous,” Ortega said. “This was our game, our time. I told them we’re not losing today, everyone believed it and we proved it.”

Twin sisters Rachel and Amanda Masullo added three goals apiece and Jennifer Barry assisted on two goals.

Middle Country will face the winner of the June 1 Massapequa-Port Washington game for the Long Island championship at Adelphi University June 4 at 7:30 p.m.

“Our mentality has been just putting in every ounce of effort and not stopping until we seal the deal,” Rachel Masullo said. “So many of our seasons got cut short. Now, we’re ready to barrel through anybody that gets in front of us.”

Jamie Ortega. File photo by Bill Landon

By Desirée Keegan

For the fourth straight year, the Middle Country girls’ lacrosse team will be making it to the semifinals of the Class A playoffs. But this time, West Islip won’t be standing in their way.

Amanda Masullo. File photo by Bill Landon

No. 3-seeded Middle Country outscored No. 6 Sachem North 9-5 May 22. Because of the seeding, No. 9 West Islip was on the opposite side of the bracket, and No. 1 Ward Melville took care of the dirty work for the Mad Dogs.

“With Ward Melville eliminating West Islip, I think it has taken some pressure off of the team, because we finally have West Islip out of our hair,” senior Rachel Masullo said. “But no matter who we verse, we can’t take our foot off the gas. We have to keep giving it our all.”

West Islip eliminated Middle Country the last three years — twice in the semifinals, and in the 2015 finals. Sophomore Sophie Alois said that with the team continuing to improve year after year though, the Mad Dogs weren’t as frightened of the Lions as they had been in the past.

“Although West Islip has been our kryptonite the last few years, they don’t intimidate us anymore,” she said. “We know we can play with them, and beat them, and we’ve shown that.”

The sophomore was referring to the team’s 13-9 win over West Islip April 20.

For now, she’s glad the team can continue its season.

“I know none of us are ready for it to end,” Alois said following the win over Sachem North. “Today was just another notch in the belt, and now we’re focused on Wednesday.”

Sophie Alois. File photo by Bill Landon

Alois led the team with four goals. Masullo had the most points, with five on two goals and three assists.

“Coming into this matchup we knew we had to limit our turnovers in the midfield and have a really strong defense, which we did,” Masullo said. “Our composure also played a big part in this win.”

The senior added that coming into the matchup, she replayed the loss to Sachem North, an 11-8 defeat May 2, over and over in her mind, and knew the Mad Dogs couldn’t let it happen again.

“It definitely wasn’t a feeling I wanted to go through again,” she said. “The loss really fired us up.”

Because a handful of the girls have been playing together for three or four seasons, the team has a strong connection. Having a few sister pairings, and the No. 1 women’s lacrosse draftee in the nation in Jamie Ortega, doesn’t hurt either. The University of North Carolina-commit finished with a goal and an assist. Senior Ava Barry added a goal and three assists, and Masullo’s twin sister Amanda rounded out the scoring with a goal of her own.

Sophie Alois. File photo by Bill Landon

Alois said that head coach Lindsay Dolson tells the team “your attitude is contagious, and all it takes is one person to get everyone going.”

The sophomore said now more than ever, the team is heeding those words.

“I know none of us are ready for this season to end,” she said. “We don’t want to feel how we have the last few seasons, having our runs cut short. We are sick of losing, we want to win. The energy from my teammates is motivating, and we’re all contributing to the exciting atmosphere.”

Middle Country faced No. 2 Smithtown East May 24, but results were not available by press time.

“It’s going to be hard to stop us,” Alois said. “We’re full steam ahead right now, and we won’t stop until we’ve won.”

Rachel Masullo fights her way up the field. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Middle Country’s girls’ lacrosse team shut out Northport in the second half to cruise to a 14-5 victory May 8, and remain in a tie for the No. 2 spot in Division I with Smithtown East.

Jamie Ortega moves the ball up the field. Photo by Bill Landon

Northport midfielder Olivia Carner broke the ice on a penalty shot in the first minute of play, as the Duke University-bound sophomore stretched the net for the early advantage.

But the Mad Dogs answered with three successive senior goals. First, was Boston University-bound Ava Barry, then University of North Carolina commit Jamie Ortega and then Masullo twins Amanda and Rachel, both Long Island University Brooklyn-bound, teamed up for the 3-1 lead.

“I told my team to drop anything that we thought about this team and rely on our strength and determination,” Rachel Masullo said. “We really wanted this game. It was a confidence booster.”

Northport’s Emerson Cabrera, a University of Florida commit, drilled two shots past the goalkeeper in under a minute to make it a new game, but Middle Country kept attacking.

Barry and the Masullo sisters did it again, and Barry found Amanda Masullo on the cut for a 6-3 lead with just under seven minutes left in the half.

“They’ve always been good, so we always have to be ready to play Northport,” Amanda Masullo said. “We stepped it up in the second  half winning the draws on offense and we knew we had to settle in and not force it, so I think we really came to play today.”

Amanda Gennardo intercepts a Northport pass. Photo by Bill LAndon

Northport’s Natalie Langella, who is headed to Bryant University, cashed in on a penalty shot, and U.S. Coast Guard Academy-bound Brenna Farrington made it a one-goal game.

But the Tigers would come no closer.

A man up, Rachel Masullo dished the ball off to Barry for a goal, and then Ortega scored for an 8-5 advantage.

“It snowballed to hell from there,” Northport head coach Carol Rose said. “These girls have got to work harder — they’ve got to play with some passion and more energy — they’ve got to have some more fight in them. They kind of just gave up. It was hard to watch.”

When the Tigers did get the ball, they struggled to transition up the field and when they did, the Mad Dog defense was up to the task.

“We knew they’d be motivated and really hyped, and they came out strong, but we took over in the second half,” Ortega said of Northport’s senior day. “We limited our turnovers, didn’t make mistakes and won a lot of the draws. But from here on out, we have to play our best because everyone wants to beat you, and in the playoffs you don’t have a second chance.”

Boston University-bound Jennifer Barry, Ava’s younger sister, Amy Hofer, University of Michigan commit Sophie Alois and Camrynn Aiello all scored in the second half.

Sophie Alois fires a shot at the cage. Photo by Bill Landon

Rachel Masullo had one goal and six assists, Ortega finished with four goals and two assists, and Amanda Masullo notched a hat trick and added an assist.

“They played us tough, but I don’t think we played up to our potential,” Middle Country head coach Lindsay Dolson said. “In the second half we had more draws, better defense and shot selection on offense, so I was pleased. Amanda Gennardo did a really nice job on defense — she came up with a huge amount of ground balls for us and she transitioned it up the field with no turnovers and that was nice to see from our underclassman.”

With the win, Middle Country improves to 11-2 and sit under undefeated Ward Melville with two games remaining before postseason play begins.

“In the playoffs, if you lose, you’re out,” Ortega said. “I don’t want to lose in the playoffs.”

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Newfield junior Dalia Perez digs one out during the Wolverines' 3-1 victory over Centereach on Oct. 23. Photo by Bill Landon
Newfield junior Dalia Perez digs one out during the Wolverines' 3-1 victory over Centereach on Oct. 23. Photo by Bill Landon
Newfield junior Dalia Perez digs one out during the Wolverines’ 3-1 victory over Centereach on Oct. 23. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

After dropping the first set to the Centereach, Newfield won the next three on the road, defeating their crosstown rival 3-1 in League III volleyball action Friday afternoon.

The Wolverines looked to put the first set away, leading 20-15 at the first time out, but the Cougars battled back to tie it at 24-24, ultimately winning 26-24.

Newfield head coach Christy Innes said her team came out flat.

“The girls did not come out with a lot of energy, but they turned it around in game two,” she coach.

The second set was very different from the first.

The Wolverines turned up the intensity, and in convincing fashion, claimed the second set 25-16, to tie the match.

Centereach senior Lauren Meigel makes contact with the ball during the Cougars' 3-1 loss to Newfield on Oct. 23. Photo by Bill Landon
Centereach senior Lauren Meigel makes contact with the ball during the Cougars’ 3-1 loss to Newfield on Oct. 23. Photo by Bill Landon

Centereach senior co-captain Lauren Meigel said she wasn’t surprised at the margin of victory in set two.

“That was to be expected as they were angry and wanted to get back [at us],” Centereach senior co-captain Nicole Fellone said. “Today we had great communication, where we had problems [with that] before.”

Trailing by six, Centereach battled back in the third set to tie the game at 21-21, and took a 24-22 advantage, but Newfield refused to lose, rallied back to tie it at 25-25, and neither team would give way, as the rivals retied the game at 26-26.

“Our attacking was a lot better in the later matches,” Newfield junior Rachel Mennonna said. “We talked a lot more and we moved our feet better.”

Newfield senior Gabby Darnaby sets up the ball during the Wolverines' 3-1 win over crosstown rival Centereach on Oct. 23. Photo by Bill Landon
Newfield senior Gabby Darnaby sets up the ball during the Wolverines’ 3-1 win over crosstown rival Centereach on Oct. 23. Photo by Bill Landon

With a 27-26 lead, Newfield finished the third set, to go up 2-1 in the match.

“We played a team that was better than us,” Centereach head coach Mike Weaver said. “We’ve had a number of injuries over the season. We’re down three starters.”

Newfield showed why they took third place in league play this season, by stretching their legs in the fourth set to break out to a 19-11 lead, thanks to the senior captain Gabby Darnaby. On a service tear, rattling off eight consecutive points, Darnaby propelled her team to a 22-11 lead with a pair of service aces along the way.

“We had better energy after that first set — we had better communication and we played better defense,” Darnaby said. “We set up the blocks where they were supposed to be, and that helped a lot.”

Centereach junior Rachel Masullo leaps up to spike the ball in the Cougars' 3-1 loss to Newfield on Oct. 23. Photo by Bill Landon
Centereach junior Rachel Masullo leaps up to spike the ball in the Cougars’ 3-1 loss to Newfield on Oct. 23. Photo by Bill Landon

Newfield junior Dayna Hunter brought her team to the brink with her kill shot for a 24-11 advantage. Coping with an injury-riddled lineup, Weaver had to make adjustments — rotating players to fill the holes.

“Emily Timarky, who is a freshman who was thrown into a spot she’s never played, she stepped up and had nine kills, so I was very happy,” Weaver said.

But it was too much for Centereach, as Newfield put the fourth set away, 25-11, to win the match.

“I think we worked as hard as we possibly could everyone gave 100 percent,” Meigel said. “We hustled the whole way, and on offense, we just kept swinging away; we swung hard and we were not going down without a fight.”

With the loss, Centereach fell to 5-8, and with a win to finish off the regular season, Newfield improved to 10-4, which places them solidly in the playoff picture, which gets underway Monday Nov. 2.

Middle Country’s Christine Gironda races Smithtown West’s Natalie Lynch for the ground ball off the draw in the Mad Dogs’ 17-13 win over the Bulls on May 8. With the win, Middle Country goes undefeated in regular season play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Middle Country girls’ lacrosse team has made history, finishing a perfect season Friday with a 17-13 win over Smithtown West, to go undefeated for the first time in district history.

“The girls played awesome today, and honestly, at practice yesterday, we didn’t even talk about being undefeated,” Middle Country head coach Lindsay Dolson said. “These girls are smart, great lacrosse players. I don’t do much but steer the ship. Now we’re back to 0-0, and let the playoffs begin.”

Middle Country’s Nikki Ortega gains possession of the ball in the Mad Dogs’ zone, in her team’s 17-13 win over Smithtown West on May 8. With the win, Middle Country finished the regular season undefeated at 16-0, with a 14-0 mark in Division I. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Middle Country’s Nikki Ortega gains possession of the ball in the Mad Dogs’ zone, in her team’s 17-13 win over Smithtown West on May 8. With the win, Middle Country finished the regular season undefeated at 16-0, with a 14-0 mark in Division I. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The victory places the team first in Division I.

The Mad Dogs were off to a strong start as usual, lighting up the scoreboard and rattling off seven unanswered goals before Smithtown West midfielder Mackenzie Heldberg, a junior, put the Bulls’ first point on the board. Each team scored four more goals in the first half, to bring the score to 11-5 heading into the break.

“Every game we’re growing, we’re coming together and our chemistry is amazing on and off the field,” senior midfielder and attack Nikki Ortega said. “We’re best friends off the field, and it really shows when we play on the field. I’m so proud of the team, and it’s really all come together.”

Ortega got the ball rolling in the second half after senior goalkeeper Ashley Miller made a big save. Ortega passed the ball to classmate Allison DiPaola, who knocked a shot in early for the 12-5 advantage.

Senior midfielder Christine Gironda continued to aid the Mad Dogs in gaining possession off the draw, which helped her team continue to score and maintain its lead.

“Momentum is everything in this game, and winning the draws gave us so much more momentum and really put us up,” Ortega said.

Ortega continued a series of strong assists when she passed the ball to her younger sister, Jamie, a sophomore midfielder, and Miller followed with two saves to keep the Bulls at bay.

Middle Country’s Amanda Masullo squeezes between Smithtown West’s Kalya Kosubinsky and Katie Aldrich as she moves the ball up the field in the Mad Dogs’ 17-13 win over the Bulls on May 8. With the win, Middle Country goes undefeated in regular season play. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Middle Country’s Amanda Masullo squeezes between Smithtown West’s Kalya Kosubinsky and Katie Aldrich as she moves the ball up the field in the Mad Dogs’ 17-13 win over the Bulls on May 8. With the win, Middle Country goes undefeated in regular season play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“That’s not how they play — they were definitely intimidated, without a doubt,” Smithtown West head coach Carie Bodo said of her team. “I think they put so much pressure on themselves, but in the second half, they were pissed, and they came out and played, and we outscored [Middle Country] in the second half.”

It took a little while for the Bulls to find their groove, and after Nikki Ortega scored off an assist from her younger sister to make the score 16-6 with 15:45 left to play, Smithtown West came back to score five unanswered goals — two by sophomore midfielder Kayla Kosubinsky — and force Middle Country to call a timeout.

“I think in the second half we really stepped it up,” Kosubinsky said. “I think we needed to figure out what we needed to do quicker in the game before there wasn’t much time left, but these girls are amazing and every person has their own role on this team and I think we all work so good together.”

The Mad Dogs regrouped in their huddle.

“This’ll show how much you want it,” Nikki Ortega said to her team. “If we want it, we’ll win.”

Jamie Ortega dished the ball to DiPaola for her hat trick goal, and although the Bulls tacked on two more to end the scoring for the game, Miller made two more stops, leaving the Mad Dogs with an undefeated season at 16-0 with a 14-0 mark in conference play.

Middle Country’s Jamie Ortega shoots the ball over a swarm of Smithtown West players in her team’s 17-13 win over the Bulls on May 8. With the win, the Mad Dogs finished the regular season undefeated at 16-0, with a 14-0 mark in Division I. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Middle Country’s Jamie Ortega shoots the ball over a swarm of Smithtown West players in her team’s 17-13 win over the Bulls on May 8. With the win, the Mad Dogs finished the regular season undefeated at 16-0, with a 14-0 mark in Division I. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Once you have your first save down you have the adrenaline to keep going,” Miller said. “We all try to stay positive and we don’t get down on each other, but bring each other up. I feel like we have good motion going on, and we’re going to keep it going.”

Nikki Ortega finished the game with four goals and five assists, while Jamie Ortega also finished with nine points, off five goals and four assists. Behind DiPaola’s hat trick was sophomore Ava Barry and eighth-grader Sophie Alois with two goals. Sophomore midfielder Amanda Masullo tacked on a goal and an assist, and her twin sister Rachel rounded out the scoring with an assist, while Miller finished with a game-high eight saves.

“It’s something I never dreamed of ever doing,” Nikki Ortega said of going undefeated. “Although it puts a lot of pressure on us for playoffs, it’s the most incredible feeling.”

She feels her team still needs to work on being more composed, especially when its opponent applies pressure and comes back in a game. However, she thinks her team has what it takes to go further than its semifinal appearance last season.

“We have to keep our heads up,” she said. “Every game I play like it’s my last. This is how I’d want to end my season and my career at Middle Country. I think if there was any year that we could go all the way, it’s this year.”