By Bill Landon
Kate Mulham said the key to Ward Melville’s dominance is simple.
“There really is no secret. We know where we can play, our level of play and we keep it there each and every game,” Mulham said. “We take each game one at a time, we don’t underestimate anyone and we just work hard every game.”
The Patriots’ field hockey team uses that mentality to continue to shut teams down.
Even with the stakes so high, the No.1-seeded Patriots did what they always do, and shut out No. 2 Eastport-South Manor, 4-0, on Nov. 1 for the team’s second consecutive county title.
In 19 games, the Patriots allowed just six goals this season, outscoring their opponents 75-6. The game was never in doubt, as Ward Melville’s attack kept the ball in Sharks territory for most of the matchup.
Mulham rocked the box two minutes in, when Kaitlin Thornton broke free down the sideline and sent a cross pass to Mulham for the early lead.
Eastport-South Manor struggled to push the ball forward, but was met with formidable Patriots midfielders, who were able to advance the ball to their forwards.
Mulham’s stick spoke three minutes later, when she drilled one past the keeper off another crossing pass by Kerri Thornton, to put the Patriots out front 2-0.
Occasionally, the Sharks managed to push the ball past midfield, but were then met by the defense that dominated the backfield, like they’ve done all season.
With 7:48 left in the half, Mulham dished the ball off to senior Kiera Alventosa, and the midfielder fired at the cage for the score to put her team ahead by three.
Ward Melville came out in the second half much different than the first, focusing on ball control, clean passing, building time of possession and letting the clock unwind.
“We always focus on attacking together — our whole premise is to play as a unit,” Alventosa said. “I think that in the first half we were revved up on nerves and excitement, so we came out hard, gave it our all and in the second half, we focused on our possession play with our passing.”
With 6:44 left in the game, the Patriots broke the cadence when Thornton broke down the left sideline and flicked a pass to forward Lexi Reinhardt, whose shot was deflected, but still stretched the net for the final goal of the game.
“We were able to control the ball between the 25-yard lines, using our back passes to keep possession, instead of going hard towards the offense the whole time,” Reinhardt said.
Ward Melville head coach Shannon Sioss said the fact that her team has held its opponents to such few goals, if any, this season is not just a result of her four strong defenders.
“The team defense we play throughout the field — every single one of our players is an integral part [of that defense],” she said. “They’re a very solid unit back there — it’s built of mostly seniors that have been playing together for a while — and they show great leadership back there.”
Ward Melville advances to the Long Island championship Nov. 5 at Adelphi University at 7 p.m. Ward Melville will face the either Baldwin or Massapequa. Results of that Wednesday night matchup were not available by press time.