This year’s Class A playoff game looked a lot like last season’s semifinal matchup, as the Middle Country girls’ lacrosse team and West Islip remained tied nearing the end of regulation. However, this time the game went into overtime, but the result was still the same: West Islip came out on top.
“It’s a little bittersweet now that the seniors are gone and to end it like this,” Middle Country head coach Lindsay Dolson said. “We knew what we had to do, and unfortunately we came up a little bit short. They were the better team today.”
Last season, the Mad Dogs went 12-6 overall with a 10-4 mark in Division I, and lost to the Lions, 12-11, with one second left in regulation. This year, the girls improved those records to 18-1 and 14-0, but little did they know they’d be squaring off against the same Lions squad. This time around, the stakes were that much higher, as Middle Country was just one goal away from winning the school’s first Suffolk County title with minutes left in regulation.
“They’re a great group of kids,” Dolson said of her team. “I know they wouldn’t quit on us, and they fought until the bitter end.”
West Islip dominated the draw early and rattled off three unanswered goals in the first three minutes of play before Middle Country won its first draw, and converted that possession into points.
With 21:51 remaining, senior midfielder and attack Nikki Ortega dumped the ball in front off an assist from sophomore midfielder Rachel Masullo, but the Lions won the next possession and grabbed an offensive rebound for a goal and a 4-1 advantage.
West Islip tacked on another goal before sophomore midfielder Jamie Ortega scored to cut the deficit, 5-2.
Rachel Masullo’s twin sister Amanda, also a sophomore midfielder, scored next off a free position goal, and Nikki Ortega found the back of the net after receiving a backwards pass that caused some confusion in front of the net, to pull her team within one, 5-4.
With 7:12 remaining in the first half, Nikki Ortega passed the ball from the left goalside to sophomore attack Ava Barry, whose goal tied the game, 5-5.
Two minutes later, West Islip broke the tie, and the teams traded goals once more, with Nikki Ortega tallying her hat trick goal off a free position shot to tie the game. But, West Islip maintained the advantage, 7-6, heading into the halftime break.
Jamie Ortega scored two goals in the second half, while Rachel Masullo added another off an assist from Barry to tie the game 9-9 with 7:17 left to play, but neither team was able to score from there, forcing two three-minute overtime periods with no sudden-death victory.
Senior midfielder Christine Gironda won the first draw in overtime, which led to Jamie Ortega’s fourth goal of the game off another assist by Barry to give the Mad Dogs their first and only lead of the game.
With 20.8 seconds left in the first overtime session, West Islip scored to tie it up 10-10, and with 2:18 left in the second three-minute span, scored again, to take the lead, which it preserved despite several Middle Country attempts at an equalizer.
While the team looses six seniors to graduation — with Nikki Ortega, Gironda, and goalkeeper Ashley Miller being impactful players on the three sections of the field — the Mad Dogs will return a significant amount of its goal-scorers next season. They will look to continue the progression in the hopes of taking its postseason game another step further and claim the county title.
“It’s been great,” Dolson said of working with the departing seniors. “They work hard and they gave it everything that they’ve got. They’ll be tough to replace next year, but I’m positive that we’re going to come back the same strong Middle Country team.”