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.
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.”
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.”