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.
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 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.”