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.”
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.
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.”