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.”
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…”
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.”