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Shannon Watson

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Patriots have won all 10 games, with five Division I matches left this season

Kerri Thornton dribbles the ball up the field. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

These Patriots are perfect.

In the Ward Melville field hockey team’s nine straight wins leading up to its matchup against Sachem North Sept. 29, the team has allowed just three goals. In the Patriots’ two games prior, they shut out Smithtown East, 1-0, and Bay Shore 4-0.

So it was no surprise that the Flaming Arrows matchup yielded similar results.

Sachem North (8-3 overall, 6-3 Division I) managed just two shots on goal, and quickly fell behind when senior Kassidy Rogers-Healion rocked the box for a 1-0 lead just 15 seconds into the game. The Flaming Arrows never recovered, and fell 3-0 on their own home turf.

Lexi Reinhardt redirects the ball. Photo by Bill Landon
Lexi Reinhardt redirects the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior goalkeeper Bella Nelin said she had complete confidence in her defense to protect the goal.

“I really trust my [defenders] in front of me, and we all just play our hardest,” she said. “Scoring that first goal in the first minute changed the game, and we controlled the tempo of the game by doing that.”

Nine minutes later, Rogers-Healion’s stick spoke again, when the forward took a crossing pass from junior Kerri Thornton and drove her shot home to put her team out in front 2-0.

Nelin, who had a quiet day in the box, said her team prepares the same way for each game, no matter who they face.

“We don’t underestimate any team that we play — regardless of the skill level,” Nelin said. “If we played them before, if we beat them before, [it doesn’t matter]; so we came out like we do for any other game.”

Sachem North controlled the middle of the field though, which forced Ward Melville’s attack to counter.

“Sachem North is an awesome team and we knew we had to come out strong,” Rogers-Healion said. “Seeing that they had a great hold on the center, we were able to pass around that using the outside and [send] the ball back.”

Kiera Alventosa clears the ball by sending it downfield. Photo by Bill Landon
Kiera Alventosa clears the ball by sending it downfield. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior Hannah Lorenzen was the last Patriot to light up the scoreboard, when the midfielder took a cross from Rogers-Healion and smacked the ball past the keeper to go up three goals with five minutes remaining in the first half.

Lorenzen said that Sachem North was much stronger in the final 30 minutes of play.

“We expected that they’d come out harder in the second half — they always do,” she said. “We knew that we had to step up our game — every single one of us — and keep the level of intensity up and just play our game.”

Sachem North struggled to find Ward Melville’s end of the field, and the Flaming Arrows had their hands full fighting off Patriots attackers for the remainder of the game.

“Although it was a solid win, I think that the girls would agree with me this wasn’t our best midfield game today, as far as our passing game,” Ward Melville head coach Shannon Watson said. “[Sachem North’s] strength was in the middle — they did a really nice job of stepping up and beating us to a lot of balls today.”

Watson said there is little discussion about her team’s undefeated performance [10-0 overall, 9-0 in Division I] with five league games left before the playoffs. The Patriots are just going to keep playing their game.

“We focus on possession and when we do that we’re more successful on the attacking end,” Watson said. “I think we did a nice job of keeping it out of our defensive end today.”

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Kaitlin Thornton takes a shot at Commack's cage. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Ward Melville’s field hockey team has outscored its opponents 14-1 through three games of the early season. Monday afternoon was no different, as the defending Long Island champions blanked Commack 5-0 on the road.

Last season, the Patriots picked off Massapequa for the Long Island title, downed Shenendehowa in the semifinals and took on Mamaroneck in a game that went to double overtime for the state title. It was a heartbreaking loss, which the team looks to avenge this year.

“It was a horrible loss, so obviously we have a chip on our shoulder,” junior Kate Mulham said. “We want to get back there and we want to win it this year, so every game we’re preparing for that — mentally and physically.”

Kate Mulham passes the ball to the front of the box. Photo by Bill Landon
Kate Mulham passes the ball to the front of the box. Photo by Bill Landon

Sophomore Jillian Bove got things going when she passed to Mulham, who rocked the box for the score in a game barely three minutes old.

Commack was able to keep Ward Melville at bay for the next 18 minutes of play until junior Kerri Thornton made her presence known with a shot that blasted into the cage to put her team out front 2-0.

“We came out flat and our coach took a time out,” Thornton said. “She spoke to us about that and we came out strong and played like the team that went to the states last year.”

It was the fewest amount of first-half goals the Patriots were held to so far this season.

“Respect to them, they’re a feisty group,” Ward Melville head coach Shannon Watson said of Commack. “But I think we were smart with our options today.”

The Patriots seemed more relaxed in the opening minutes of the second half, moving the ball with confidence as they waited patiently for an opening. Mulham saw that opening, and her shot hit its mark for her second goal of the game.

“We weren’t communicating in the first half, and because of that, we hesitated passing the ball,” Mulham said. “But in the second half everyone came out talking — we knew where the ball was, we knew where each other was.”

From there, the Patriots began to wear down the Cougars, as the team beat out its opponent to the sidelines and pressured Commack’s goalie through most of the second half. Then, Thornton’s stick spoke again. This time, the junior knocked in a rebound for her second score of the afternoon for the team’s four-goal advantage.

Kassidy Rogers-Healion drives up the field. Photo by Bill Landon
Kassidy Rogers-Healion drives up the field. Photo by Bill Landon

Watson said her team’s ability to move the ball gives the Patriots the upper hand.

“One of our strengths is our passing game, and when we’re passing well that’s hard to defend, and it catches other teams off guard a little bit,” she said. “We don’t waste as much energy when we’re passing like that and it works to our advantage.”

The Patriots’ defensive line showed why the team has allowed only one goal this season, and kept the Cougars off their side of the field — leaving them with zero shots on goal.

“We have a great defensive line,” senior Kassidy Rogers-Healion said. “[Commack] had several fast breaks, but we’ve got a great back line.”

She sealed the deal with 19 minutes left when senior Kiera Alventosa spotted her unmarked, and Rogers-Healion flicked in the pass for the 5-0 win.

Watson said although the team is focusing on taking it one game at a time, especially being a different team with some new members, the goal for this season is to aspire to the level of success Ward Melville achieved last year.

“They’re definitely hungry,” she said of her Patriots making it back to the state finals. “And they’re on a mission to redeem themselves.”

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.