Middle Country made quick work of Commack Tuesday, scoring five unanswered goals in the first five minutes of the contest, and despite losing its opening power, came away with a 15-10 win.
“We were kind of flat — there wasn’t a lot of intensity and it definitely showed,” Middle Country head coach Lindsay Dolson said. “It has to do with our warm-up, and certain teams they take lightly. We’ve talked about it — not to do that. Good thing we didn’t get caught today, but it definitely could’ve happened.”
After gaining possession off the draw, junior midfielder Jamie Ortega beat out two defenders and stuffed the ball into the left side of the cage for the early advantage just 30 seconds in. She won possession off the draw again, and scoring next was junior midfielder Ava Barry. The two connected for the third goal of the game, when Ortega passed to Barry, who dumped it in up front.
“Jamie’s been doing an awesome job on defense and offense for us,” Dolson said. “She definitely leads the team in that aspect. She’s doing a great job.”
At the 20:42 mark, Commack was fouled for shooting space, and freshman midfielder Sophie Alois raced to the center of the field in front of the crease and scored to the left side for the 4-0 lead. Ortega and Barry connected for the final goal before Commack put its first point on the board, when Ortega couldn’t find an open lane and moved outside and away from a defender to be able to send a quick pass to Barry in front of the cage.
“We’re good at moving the ball around and finding the open girl quick because a defender comes on her, but on defense we could’ve crashed earlier,” Barry said.
Defense is where the Mad Dogs struggled most. Once Commack began winning possession off the draw, Middle Country wasn’t able to turn the ball over and the Cougars collected points as a result.
By the end of the first half, Middle Country still had a substantial lead, 11-5, and jumped out of the gate again to start the second half, scoring three unanswered goals before Commack countered at the 13:33 mark, and scored twice more to trail 14-8.
Middle Country junior midfielder Amy Hofer found the back of the cage for the Mad Dogs’ final goal of the game, but Commack scored three more.
Ortega finished the game with four goals and three assists, while Barry ended with a hat trick and two assists. Twin juniors Amanda and Rachel Masullo added two goals apiece, and Barry’s younger sister Jen, a freshman, tacked on a goal and an assist.
“We need to win, and we can’t always win by playing the way we played today,” Ortega said, who added that it’s been difficult playing without her sister, Nikki, the team’s leading scorer last season. “We lost a lot of important players from last year, but we’re still close, we’re still a family and we connect. It helps.”
Her coach is still seeing improvement though, as the mixed team, with seven freshmen and seven juniors, looks to reach the county finals level that last year’s did.
“They definitely have been growing and going in the right direction,” Dolson said. “Today, I think, was a little bit of a setback, but hopefully we’ll pick up from this in practice tomorrow and get ready for Northport on Thursday. They’re going to come with very aggressive defense. We need to handle that pressure and we have to put together a whole game.”
Middle Country takes on Northport Thursday at 4 p.m.
Barry said that if her Mad Dogs can limit the turnovers, get to the ground balls and continue to work on the draws, they’d have a good shot against Northport.
“I feel pretty strongly,” she said. “If we practice hard tomorrow and we warm up strong, we’ll play a better game.”