By Bill Landon
Miller Place boasts a mix of youth and experience in its girls lacrosse team this season, including nine eighth-graders, many of which were on the Panthers playoff team last year.
The team finished its 2017 campaign with a 7-6 record, making the playoffs but falling to rival Shoreham-Wading River in the opening round. The girls scrimmaged Syosset before going toe-to-toe March 17 with New York State champion Mount Sinai, scoring several goals against their formidable neighbors.
Being a young team, boasting just four seniors with sophomores, freshmen and the nine eighth-graders making up the rest of the roster, Miller Place head coach Thomas Carro is under no illusion as to what’s in store for his squad this season.
“We’re going to have some growing pains in the beginning,” he said. “They’re going to make mistakes. We turned the ball over like 11 times in that last scrimmage [against Syosset], so we’ve got to limit those — and we will.”
Carro said five-year senior goalkeeper Hailey Duchnowski, along with returning defenders, should keep the Panthers in games.
“I think we have one of the best goalies we’ve ever had,” Carro said of Duchnowski, also pointing to junior defender Ava Burns and sophomore midfielder Madison Murphy, who he said is “going to have a good year.” “If those girls play hard, that stuff becomes contagious and the younger group will follow them.”
Duchnowski pointed to areas of promise and areas of concern she has with her unit up to this point in practice.
“We are doing really well at moving the ball fast on offense, coming together on defense, working hard,” she said. “But we’ll have to get better in transition.”
Murphy’s assessment of her team’s progress so far she said belies its age, but also noticed moments of weakness.
“We have a bunch of athletes,” she said. “We need to play together as a team, and if we do that it’ll all come together. We’ll need a lot of communication on the defensive end as well as on offense, and if we can do that fluently we can win.”
Senior Nicole Beck will also provide the Panthers with the leadership they need, and said, like her coach always does, Miller Place doesn’t rebuild, it reloads.
“We lost a great amount of talent last year, but so far we’re still able to put up the numbers offensively,” Beck said. “It’s been impressive — we didn’t think we’d be able to do that — we have a lot of young girls who are playing really well.”
Murphy said her team’s preparation for the league opener at home against last year’s nemesis won’t have anything to do with the athleticism of the team, but with the mental preparedness. Miller Place will host Shoreham-Wading River March 28 at 4 p.m.
“If we go into that game with a positive mindset, work as hard as we can, I think there could be a positive outcome,” she said.
Carro said his team competes with some of the sport’s top Long Island talents, and said finding a way to neutralize high-caliber opponent’s threats will be key to competing with the cream of the crop.
“Shoreham lost a lot [of talent] last year, but it’ll be a test for us to play a team that’s next door to us; the girls all know each other,” the coach said. “We have Rocky Point and Mount Sinai [as neighbors and opponents this year], and those are tough teams. These girls come out and play hard against those teams, and if we take care of the ball and make good decisions, we can be in the game with anybody.”