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Kerri Kilkenny

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Members of state championship-winning field hockey team look to bring another title home this spring

Samantha Tarpey goalie, Ward Melville's junior goalkeeper, reaches to make a save during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Three Ward Melville multi-sport athletes are hoping to not only share knowledge of success through teaching, but through osmosis.

Lexi Reinhardt, Kate Mulham and Kerri Thornton, all veterans of the Patriots field hockey team, have tasted success at the highest level. After bringing home the school’s first state title since 2008, they returning starters are hoping to do it again, but this time, with the girls lacrosse team.

Ward Melville senior Shannon Brazier make a pass during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

“Our core players are high energy, they’re high speed, high power, just go-go-go,” head coach Kerri Kilkenny said. “After those girls won the field hockey state title they were all texting me, ‘we’re doing it again in the spring.’”

Ward Melville ended its 2017 campaign 17-1. The Patriots powered through the regular season, going 16-0 in Division I before topping West Islip in the Class A quarterfinals. Going 17-1 would seem to be an accomplishment for any team, but for Patriots, the single-score loss to Northport in semifinals stung, and the pain still lingers. Ranked No. 1 in Division I heading into this season, Ward Melville has its sights set on a new objective.

“Our focus is working hard and getting better every day,” Kilkenny said. “This year I’m more concerned about making sure that we are taking care of ourselves — that we are becoming better, that we are improving and that we’re working hard every single day.”

The Patriots lost 13 seniors to graduation, spread evenly across the field — four attackers, four midfielders, four defenders and a goalkeeper. Kilkenny said with the girls playing on club teams over the summer, she’s not worried about filling in the gaps. Senior Shannon Coughlan will anchor the defense, the duo of Shannon Brazier and Shannon Berry will lead the midfield and Jill Becker will guide the attack.

Ward Melville senior Nicole Liucci moves the ball downfield during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Brazier said the bitter taste left in every girl’s mouth after the loss will be used as motivation.

“We’re all trying as hard as we can because a lot of us are seniors,” she said. “This is our last year, so we’re giving it our all. Even though we only had one loss last year, it ended our season. We weren’t happy about that, so we’re using that to fuel our season this year.”

Coughlan, who agreed with Brazier, said she is also looking to get her team up to speed.

“We have new personnel on defense, so we’re going to have to work on communication with each other to get to where we’re comfortable,” Coughlan said.

Ward Melville will scrimmage top Division III teams in Mount Sinai, Shoreham-Wading River, Eastport-South Manor and Bayport-Blue Point before the season opener against visiting Riverhead March 27 at 4:30 p.m.

“My senior class is a great, dynamic group — they’ve been with us a few years now and they all have tremendous potential,” Kilkenny said. “All of the girls are like sponges; they want to learn, they listen, they’re coachable. They really are a wonderful group of kids.”

Shannon Brazier scores. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Undefeated Ward Melville has a target on its back, and the girls lacrosse team’s 17-4 crushing of Smithtown West May 8 only made it larger.

Hannah Lorenzen prepares to make a pass to the front of the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Everyone is out to get us,” Ward Melville head coach Kerri Kilkenny said. “I think this was probably one of our best games that we’ve played this season — connecting every pass, strong in transition, looking for each other. They were looking one step ahead. We knew where everyone was going to be and a good majority of our goals were assisted, which shows how well we’ve jelled and come together as a team.”

Senior Hannah Lorenzen scored three of the first five goals for the Patriots, who continued to win draw after draw to gain crucial time of possession against the No. 3 Bulls.

“They just passed to me and I was able to finish,” Lorenzen said. “I think the draw is a big part of it. We get possession and it leads to more opportunities to score.”

Sophomore goalkeeper Samantha Tarpey’s saves in the first half also played a large role in the team’s success.

“Making those saves keeps me going and my confidence up,” she said. “It keeps team morale high.”

As the team dominated through the final minutes of the first half, three other Patriots got on the board, and Lorenzen added her fourth goal of the game, before Smithtown West scored three straight.

Jillian Becker moves the ball through defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Ward Melville sophomore Alexis Reinhardt closed out the half with the final goal to put her team up 10-3.

“We felt it was going to be a bit of a tougher matchup,” Kilkenny said. “I’m not downplaying my kids’ skills at all, because I feel when they play together they’re unstoppable. We controlled every step of this game, and I’m proud of them for that.”

With 13 players on the score sheet — Reinhardt, Shannon Berry and Shannon Brazier scoring two goals each — the chemistry between the team that put up 17 goals and 10 assists seems unmatched.

“We don’t have a few key players — our team is deep. We can all score; we can all play,” Lorenzen said. “We worked a lot on clearing and having people drive through and on our feeds off the draw. We moved the ball well in practice.”

Shannon Berry shoots. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Lorenzen is a part of six sets of sisters on the team, but to the senior, the entire team is her family.

“I think having those bonds and those connections help — we trust each other and believe in each other and the sisterly intuition is there,” she said. “But we all feel like sisters.”

Kilkenny said her team is right where it needs to be, and with its 15th straight win, she’s excited to see where the Patriots go.

“You don’t want to peak too soon, but we’re continuing that high level of play— the timing of this game is great,” she said. “We’re certainly enjoying the ride, but we keep ourselves down to Earth. They need to play each game like it could be their last.”

Lorenzen doesn’t see the season ending any time soon.

“We feel we have a little bit of an edge,” she said. “We might have a target on our back, but we can take the competition.”

11 girls score, 3 others add assists

Junior midfielder Madison Hobbes turns away from a swarm of Commack defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Ward Melville’s girls’ lacrosse team scored four unanswered goals to start Monday morning’s contest, and held a 10-goal lead with 17:35 left to play. Despite Commack coming back to score eight unanswered, the Patriots hung on, maintaining possession and keeping the ball moving in the final minute to come away with a 15-13 win.

“We were a little inconsistent,” Ward Melville head coach Kerri Kilkenny said. “We had moments of brilliance and some things we can still improve upon. We need to make sure we keep our high level of play the entire game.”

Sophomore attack Jill Becker passes the ball around the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Sophomore attack Jill Becker passes the ball around the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Sophomore midfielder Nicole Liucci scored first after receiving a foul call when a Commack defender ran into her path, and sophomore attack Jill Becker added another with a shot through traffic.

Minutes later, junior attack Kaitlin Thornton landed a foul call of her own and sent her shot home. At the 16:16 mark, junior attack and midfielder Hannah Lorenzen scored up front after receiving a pass from Becker, for the 4-0 advantage.

“We’ve all played together for a really long time, so there’s definitely a connection on our team,” Becker said. “We work together, we all look up, pass to each other and we’re strong with our shot placement — we were able to finish our shots.”

Commack scored its first goal of the game minutes later, and just 30 seconds after, the Patriots pushed back when junior midfielder Kerry McKeever raced past the cage and fed the ball backward to junior midfielder Hannah Hobbes, who swiveled around defenders to get a good look in front. Becker and Lorenzen tallied their second goals of the game, and junior midfielder and defender Kelly Quinn hit her mark for an 8-1 lead.

Freshman attack and midfielder Alexis Reinhardt crosses the ball into Commack's zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Freshman attack and midfielder Alexis Reinhardt crosses the ball into Commack’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We don’t necessarily have the one or two superstars, we are very well-spread offensively,” Kilkenny said. “If something’s not working for a few players, others can certainly step up and fill the roles.”

A Ward Melville offside call lead to a Commack goal, and the Cougars added another seconds later to close the gap. Ward Melville junior goalkeeper Kathryn Hopkins made a save with less than two minutes remaining in the first, and another with one second on the clock, to keep the score unchanged.

Sophomore attack Kate Mulham scored first in the opening seconds of the second half, and after her team scored two more, the two sides traded goals until Mulham scored her second and third goals of the game back-to-back, giving the Patriots their 10-goal lead with 17:35 left to play.

“We definitely started out strong, making our connections all across the field,” Mulham said. “We have a really deep bench and we can put a lot of different girls out there and we can all still perform together, because the chemistry is there. Each of our individual skills combined are really beneficial to the team.”

Sophomore attack Kate Mulham moves through midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Sophomore attack Kate Mulham moves through midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

But the defense struggled to maintain the offense’s advantage, as Commack came back to score eight unanswered goals, the last coming with 6:24 left in the game.

“We definitely did get a little comfortable and once we realized we needed to pull it together, we did,” Becker said. “I think we lost some communication on defense and attack with who has who and making sure we were guarding against the cutters.”

Kilkenny said her team struggled to come out strong in the first half throughout the first few games of the season, but the team has worked on playing each half equally as strong, and especially in the first half, Mulham has noticed a difference.

“We had slow starts and we were down by a few, and we always came back at the end,” she said. “But now, being able to start off strong is putting us in the lead early, making it much less stressful.”

Although the game grew closer at the end, Mulham said she is still confident that if her team can continue to work on improving, it can be tough to compete against.

“I think we can go really far this season if we all continue to work together and address these problems that we’re noticing now early in the season,” she said. “Once we address those I think we can go as far as we want to. I think we’ll be unstoppable.”