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Lexi Reinhardt

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Patriots powerhouse wins two 1-0 games for first state crown since 2008

Kerri Thornton has become a thorn in the side of her opponents.

The senior standout scored Ward Melville’s game-winning goal in overtime to help the Patriots bring home the first Class A state title in field hockey since 2008 with a 1-0 win over Maine-Endwell on their field Nov. 12.

“At first, I honestly did not think it went in,” Thornton said. “When Kate [Mulham] got the back ball, I ran back into the circle and got ready for her to send it in. When she did, I received it, and just turned around and shot it hard hoping that it would go in.”

As Thornton’s teammates surrounded her in celebration, she said she knew what she’d done.

“I let out a huge shout in relief,” she said as she saw the smiling faces racing toward her. “It has been our dream ever since we were kids to win a championship like this. The journey this season — as a senior this year — this was what I wanted. I’m just so proud of my team for putting in the time and effort to get to where we got. It’s incredible that we finally pulled it off.”

The game-winning goal was scored with 4:37 left in overtime. Mulham said despite the team’s perfect 21-0 record, losing in the state final and semifinal games in extra minutes in the last two years lingered in the back of their minds. She said despite coming up just short in recent years, she knew the qualities her surrounding teammates possessed.

“What makes Ward Melville field hockey different is that we field a team where every girl is extremely talented,” she said. “Overtime is a high-pressure situation, but I was confident. That’s what makes us so successful.”

She said when she heard her classmate calling for the ball from the circle, she knew what she had to do.

“All I could see was a swarm of defenders when I passed the ball to Kerri,” Mulham said. “But I heard her calling for it, and I trust her, so I sent it to her. When I saw it go into the net, I broke down — tears of joy, and I rushed to hug her so tightly. I never wanted something so badly, and to accomplish something like this with your best friends is a feeling I can’t even put into words.”

With the intensity up and with a huge target on its back, Ward Melville began its journey upstate Nov. 11. With a second trip to the finals in three years on the line, junior Lexi Reinhardt was the first Patriot to jump for joy. Long Island’s leading goal scorer (33 points on 24 goals and nine assists) found the back of the cage in another pressure-filled situation. With 23 seconds left in the first half of a 0-0 game with Baldwinsville, she scored off an assist from senior Shannon Coughlan to send Ward Melville to the finals.

“The play was on a corner and in these games corners are precious,” Reinhardt said. “It was just a great pass from Shannon Coughlan and I was in the right position to finish it.”

She said the Patriots wanted to make a statement being back in the state semifinal game for the third year in a row.

“Heading in, there was definitely some nerves, but I think we channeled that and we were able to play off of the energy of the situation,” she said. “During the game we didn’t focus on that though, we were just focused on playing our game, and winning. The joy and happiness that we feel has radiated throughout the entire program. I will never forget this team.”

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Patriots hope to avenge last season's semifinal loss that ruined their perfect season

By Bill Landon

The freight train keeps on rolling.

Ward Melville’s undefeated field hockey team bested Mamaroneck 3-1 Nov. 4 to clinch the Southeast Regional title, and with that, punch a ticket to the state semifinal, where the Patriots will face Baldwinsville Nov. 11 at 9:30 a.m. at Maine-Endwell Senior High School.

The team has unfinished business after having its perfect record blemished following the state semifinal game last year, and falling to Mamaroneck in the state finals in 2015. Ward Melville head coach Shannon Sioss was happy her Patriots avenged their loss to the Tigers, but said the win is nothing more than a stepping-stone toward the ultimate goal.

“I told them how proud I am,” Sioss said she told her athletes after the win. “But now it’s time to continue that journey up to Binghamton, which has been our goal since the beginning of the season.”

All of the goals were scored in the second half, the first coming in the opening minutes when Ward Melville’s Caitlin Evans tapped in the ball after Lexi Reinhardt freed it from between the Tigers’ goalkeeper’s legs, despite being a man down.

“I was just so excited,” Evan said of scoring. “We’ve worked so hard all season, since August, to get here and we were not going to let it prevent us from getting to states. We were ready. We came in with heart and that really helped us to come back in the second half. We’re really working so hard for the seniors — it’s their last chance to make it to states.”

The Patriots’ lead was short-lived, as two minutes later Mamaroneck defender Emily Mahland ripped a shot past the goalie to make it a new game.

Both teams fielded a formidable defensive units, proved by the lack of shots on goal early on, but Ward Melville kept to its status quo by turning up the heat in the second half. Reinhardt found an open lane and rocked the box with a solo shot for the go-ahead goal with 10:45 left in regulation.Kerri Thornton scored the final goal with 2:45 on the clock.

“They’re an excellent program, so we had to keep the pressure going so they didn’t have a chance to come back,” Reinhardt said of Mamaroneck. “We’ve been [to the state semifinals and finals] before and we want to finish it this time. It’s not for us; it’s for the seniors, the whole program and the people [who] watch us.”

Ward Melville has allowed just two goals in five postseason appearances, and has outscored opponents 80-15 this entire season. Prior to the Southeast Regional win, the Patriots scored their 10th shutout of the year with a 6-0 win over Massapequa for their third straight Long Island championship title.

“Today we capitalized on our corners,” Thornton said. “In the last couple of games we haven’t been able to do that, but finally finished on those opportunities. Our defense also did a fantastic job. I don’t think they get enough credit for what they do.”

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By Bill Landon

Lexi Reinhardt wasn’t concerned about being down 1-0, even with just 12 minutes left in the game.

Poised and prepared, Ward Melville’s junior field hockey standout slammed home the Patriots’ two goals in 2-1 come-from-behind win over Sachem East  Oct. 28 for the program’s third straight Suffolk County Class A title.

“We were just trying to stay positive, keep the pressure going,” she said. “It took us a little while to come back, but we knew we had to work together and get the ball in the net. And that’s what we did.”

After a scoreless first half, Sachem East’s Emily Rodriguez broke the ice at the 25-minute mark.

The Flaming Arrows’ defense proved it was up to the task of guarding against a Ward Melville attack that outscored opponents 62-13 during the regular season, but senior midfielder Kate Mulham said she knew it was only a matter of time until her Patriots would strike.

“Our team prides itself on its composure and our ability to be resilient even when faced with adversity, like being down 1-0 to a really strong team like Sachem East,” the co-captain said. “We all know our individual strengths and our team’s strengths, and we knew that if we kept up our style of play eventually the goals would fall.”

Reinhardt relished in a penalty shot attempt, and fired home a goal to tie the game with 11:27 left to play. With 4:50 left in regulation, junior forward Caitlin Evans scooped up possession amid a pile of players off a corner attempt, and flicked a pass to Reinhardt, who put the game away with the go-ahead goal.

“It was great to get that stroke to break the ice a little bit and to keep our attack pushing and pushing,” Ward Melville head coach Shannon Sioss said. “[Sachem East’s] defense was extremely strong today, and we were just lucky that we had a lot of opportunities. We had our fingers crossed that hopefully we would be able to break through that defense at least once.”

The Patriots extend their undefeated streak to 18-0, and will represent Suffolk in the Long Island regional championship game against Massapequa Nov. 1 at Newfield High School at 2:30 p.m.

“Winning county championship brings a lot of pride to us — it’s a confidence booster and we’re going to carry it on to our next game,” Reinhardt said. “Hopefully win and keep this streak going with this positive vibe as we go on.”

By Bill Landon

Shenendehowa has given the Ward Melville field hockey team a run for its money the last two seasons — outscoring the Patriots by one goal in the state semifinals last season and in double overtime in the state finals the year before. But this season, the Rocky Point field hockey team was first to press its luck with Ward Melville, forcing a shootout that the Patriots pulled away perfect from, 3-0, for the first win of the season.

“Respect to Rocky Point — they are a very aggressive and talented team, so I knew this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park,” Ward Melville head coach Shannon Sioss said of its nonleague opponent. “In fact, we like to schedule our nonleagues to be competitive games — it helps us see where our weaknesses are and what we need to work on.”

“We have a really experienced senior class and they’ve been down this road the last couple of years, so they’re on a mission right now.”

—Shannon Sioss

Rocky Point was first to find the back of the cage when senior midfielder Madison Sanchez dished the ball to senior forward Emily Molinaro.

The Patriots had to shake off the cobwebs when they found themselves battling a scrappy, in-your-face Eagles squad that caused several turnovers, and Ward Melville senior forward Kerri Thornton was first to break the ice. She evened the score for the Patriots with four minutes left until the halftime break, and rocked the back of the box on another solo with nine minutes left in the game for Ward Melville’s first lead.

“We have a really experienced senior class and they’ve been down this road the last couple of years, so they’re on a mission right now,” Sioss said. “I thought that Shannon Coughlan held the middle of our field today and Kerri Thornton is always up for a good challenge, so it’s fun to watch her play.”

Thornton said her team took the game very serious, knowing Rocky Point’s pedigree.

“I knew that Rocky Point was going to be good because they always battle with Miller Place in the county final,” the senior said. “So I wasn’t coming into this game thinking ‘oh, we’re going to win [this game easily, and as it turned out we had our hands full].”

Ward Melville drew a costly yellow card that led to Rocky Point defender Elizabeth Weiner scoring on a penalty shot to tie the game with four minutes remaining.

“We were right in this game and we deserved to be in this game,” said Rocky Point head coach Katie Bittner. “In the beginning we dominated, we scored first, and I think Ward Melville woke up a little bit, but we also got a little tired.”

“We were right in this game and we deserved to be in this game. “In the beginning we dominated…”

—Katie Bittner

Despite being a player down in the final minute of regulation, the Eagles held their own until the clock expired. Ward Melville, still a man up, tried to take home the win in sudden death overtime, but the Eagles returned to full strength two minutes in without Ward Melville getting a shot off. Rocky Point went down a player yet again in the final four minutes, but neither team could score.

“I don’t think that they played bad or that we got lucky — I honestly think that we were the better team,” Bittner said. “We made some mental mistakes that put us a man down, but when the field is this big, it’s huge that we held our own with our five field players to their six.”

Then came the best-of-five shootout, where Thornton and seniors Lexi Reinhardt and Kate Mulham helped Ward Melville to the 3-0 win, while goalkeeper Meghan Lorenzen guarded the Patriots’ cage to keep Rocky Point off the board.

Ward Melville will host Riverhead Sept. 6 at 4:15 p.m. Rocky Point opens its league season at home Sept. 7, hosting Sayville at 4 p.m.

Despite the loss, Bittner has realistic goals for her team this year.

“I’m not looking for an undefeated season by any means, I’m looking to get us to where [Ward Melville] got last year, which is a state championship,” she said. “And with this group, I know they can do it. This was truly a learning experience.”

The Ward Melville field hockey team celebrates it's 2-1 victory over Newfield that earned the Patriots the Suffolk County Class A championship title at Dowling College on Nov. 2. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Despite a scoreless battle after 30 minutes of field hockey action, it was Ward Melville sophomore midfielder Kate Mulham’s goal scored with 8:31 left in regulation that was the game-winner for the No. 1-seeded Patriots over No. 2 Newfield, for the Suffolk County Class A title Monday evening at Dowling College’s Athletic Complex.

Ward Melville's Kate Mulham moves the ball in the Patriots' 2-1 win over Newfield for the Suffolk County Class A championship title on Nov. 2 at Dowling College. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville’s Kate Mulham moves the ball in the Patriots’ 2-1 win over Newfield for the Suffolk County Class A championship title on Nov. 2 at Dowling College. Photo by Bill Landon

The first goal of the game came nine minutes into the second half, when Ward Melville sophomore Kerri Thornton crossed the ball to freshman Lexi Reinhardt, who smacked it in for the 1-0 lead.

“Kerri [Thornton] brought it up field” Reinhardt said. “I was just there to hit it in.”

Neither team faced each other during the regular season, so Patriots (13-1) were seeing the Wolverines (12-2) for the first time.

Although the time of possession favored Ward Melville, Newfield pressed for all 60 minutes, forcing the Patriots to earn every move.

Ward Melville junior Kiera Alventosa said she knew her team would have their hands full with their opponent.

“We couldn’t let up at all against them — they came at us hard,” she said. “On offense, we passed well, we were looking at our lanes. We were strong defensively; they weren’t getting through us.”

With 17:40 left to play, Newfield made it a new game when senior forward Maggie Finley rocked the box with an assist from her younger sister, Abby, a freshman midfielder.

Ward Melville's Kiera Alventosa drives past Newfield's Michelle Loken in the Patriots' 2-1 win over the Wolverines for the Suffolk County Class A title on Nov. 2 at Dowling College. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville’s Kiera Alventosa drives past Newfield’s Michelle Loken in the Patriots’ 2-1 win over the Wolverines for the Suffolk County Class A title on Nov. 2 at Dowling College. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville head coach Shannon Watson said the journey to the championship round wasn’t easy.

“It’s been quite an emotional road — we were down 4-1 in our last game but our kids battled back and it shows how determined they are,” Watson said. “To be here is wonderful, but it just wasn’t enough for them. They wanted to make sure that they had a solid win tonight.”

That solid win came when Mulham received the ball from Thornton, and drove her shot to the back of the cage for the 2-1 lead.

“I expected them to be good — they’re the No. 2 seed,” Thornton said. “So we had to come out with great intensity to keep our momentum.”

Ward Melville will face Massapequa for the Long Island Class A title on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Dowling College.

“I’ll let them take a day to let it soak in and enjoy the win,” said the coach. “Then it’s back to practice and we’ll continue to do what we’ve done all season, working on our spacing and our ball control and sharpening our defense.”

The Ward Melville field hockey team poses for a group photo after edging out Newfield, 2-1, to earn the Suffolk County Class A title at Dowling College on Nov. 2. Photo by Bill Landon
The Ward Melville field hockey team poses for a group photo after edging out Newfield, 2-1, to earn the Suffolk County Class A title at Dowling College on Nov. 2. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville's Lexi Reinhardt (No. 9) taps the ball into the cage off a feed from Kerri Thornton (No. 12) during the Patriots' 4-0 shutout of Commack on Sept. 22. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Ward Melville swarmed the field Tuesday and with an impressive passing performance gave Commack more than it could handle, blanking their opponent 4-0 on the road in Division I field hockey action.

The Patriots got to work three minutes in when sophomore Kerri Thornton hit the scoreboard first off an assist from fellow sophomore Kate Mulham, to take an early lead.

Ward Melville's Katie Mulham moves the ball down the field during the Patriots' 4-0 blanking of Commack on Sept. 22. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville’s Katie Mulham moves the ball down the field during the Patriots’ 4-0 blanking of Commack on Sept. 22. Photo by Bill Landon

“I had a great insert from Kate Mulham,” Thornton said of the first goal of the game. “Our passing today was the best [we’ve had this season].”

Having lost to their Division I rival Sachem East on Saturday, the Patriots’ play was crisper, more deliberate, and they were faster to the ball than their opponents to bounce back and learn from their defeat.

“I think that coming off Saturday’s loss to Sachem East, today, we showed a lot of discipline,” said Ward Melville head coach Shannon Watson. “We were able to play at our level, the entire game.”

With 13:06 left in the first half, junior Kassidy Rogers-Healion passed the ball to freshman Lexi Reinhardt, who redirected the ball in the front of the cage for the score to put her team out front, 2-0.

At the 10-minute mark, Commack made an offense push, spending more time in front of the Patriots’ box, but Ward Melville senior goalkeeper Emily Hoey stood tall and extinguished the Cougars’ onslaught. She notched four saves on the afternoon.

Ward Melville wasn’t finished scoring, and a minute later, Reinhardt found the box again, this time, off an assist by Thornton, to help her team break out to a 3-0 lead.

“It was a fast break and the defender was on Kerri [Thornton],” Reinhardt said. “I was right in front of the goal and she passed it to me, and I just tapped it in.”

With just over four minutes left in the half, Commack’s Brooke Novello squared off against Hoey with a penalty shot at point-blank range, which Hoey was able to deflect, spoiling the Cougars’ best scoring opportunity of the afternoon.

Ward Melville's Kiera Alventosa air dribbles the ball during the Patriots' 4-0 win over Commack on Sept. 22. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville’s Kiera Alventosa air dribbles the ball during the Patriots’ 4-0 win over Commack on Sept. 22. Photo by Bill Landon

Reinhardt wasn’t done, and buried her hat trick goal early in the second half, to put the game away, 4-0.

“I got a great pass [from junior Hannah Lorenzen] and I just tapped it in,” Reinhardt said. “I had a lot of help today from my teammates.”

Watson said that junior Kiera Alventosa and senior Shawn Davenport held the midfield together, which was key to getting the ball up front.

“They both did a really nice job for us in the midfield this afternoon,” she said. “They made smart choices and they anchored the center of the field today.”

With the win, Ward Melville improves to 4-1, and will look to improve on that when the Patriots host Bay Shore on Friday. The opening face-off is scheduled for 4:15 p.m.