On a day when Westhampton Beach needed to give its best performance, the Hurricanes struggled to remain consistent.
The girls lacrosse team was missing passes, forcing shots, and leaving the Bayport-Blue Point offense open, leading to the team falling 12-6 in the Class C semifinal May 22. For the Phantoms, the win avenged their triple-overtime loss to Westhampton in the semis last season.
“We just couldn’t handle the ball,” head coach Mary Bergmann said. “We did not show up.We weren’t executing the things we’ve practiced the entire season.”
But the game was an improvement from Westhampton’s (12-5 overall, 10-4 in Division II) first loss to the Phantoms back on May 6, which snapped a five-game win streak for the Hurricanes.
Bayport (14-2, 11-2) had scored eight of its 12 goals off free positions the first time around, so Bergmann stressed the importance of keeping her team’s opponent off the 8-meter line, which the Hurricanes did. The Hurricanes had also won the draw just a third of the time, and turned that around by winning all but one in the first half alone, finishing 13 for 20. Westhampton won the first six, yet Bayport was up by a 5-1 score.
Senior Hollie Schleicher tallied the first of her final two goals in green two minutes into the game, evening the score at 1. Star Ailish Kelly scored three of the Phantoms’ four consecutive goals that followed. She ended with five. Westhampton senior Anna McCarthy scored up high off a cross-field feed from junior Belle Smith to make it a two-goal game, but the Hurricanes ended the first down 6-3 on a goal with 3:50 left.
“We have struggled this season with digging ourselves out of holes when we’re down in the first half,” Schleicher said. “At halftime we talked staying positive and not letting the score get to our heads, just focusing on playing our game and taking care of the ball.”
Unfortunately for the Hurricanes that’s not how it worked out.
In the second half, the Phantoms completed another four-goal spurt over six minutes before sophomore Maureen Duffy bulled her way up the center of the field for a score. Schleicher continued the momentum with a goal just over a minute later to fire up the team, but cutting the deficit in half would be as close as the Hurricanes could come.
Schleicher received an over-the-shoulder, above-traffic pass from Smith at the 15:35 mark, and beat out a defender swatting behind her on one knee before sending the ball over the Bayport goalkeeper’s head from close range to bring the score to 10-5.
Smith (one goal, three assists) won the ensuing draw, but a back pass was missed and the ball rolled into her team’s territory. Smith scooped up a ground ball on the other side, but the ball was turned over this time on a pass from behind the cage that ended up in the crease. The Phantoms quickly scored on that turnover — one of seven times they cashed in on Hurricane turnovers on the afternoon.
“They’re used to being in pressure situations, and we aren’t,” Bergmann said. “We went into panic mode. It’s like fighting an uphill battle. Belle’s great — we’re always looking to Belle — but she can’t do everything. We still have young kids that just don’t step up. We’re always telling them to pass and move, and get involved.”
Paige Rignola on attack and Stony Brook University-bound Lindsay Rongo on defense also played in their final game. Schleicher said despite going out empty handed, she’s proud to have been a part of monumental wins during her two years since transferring from East Hampton, where she was on varsity since eighth grade.
Last season, Westhampton made it to the Suffolk County finals for the first time, and this year, the Hurricanes earned a record-breaking 12 wins. The team also beat Mattituck/Southold (10-9 April 17) and West Babylon (12-8 May 9), teams they’ve struggled to even score against in years past.
“We try our best as seniors and upperclassmen to create an environment where everyone is comfortable and feels a part of the team,” Scheicher said. “And I can’t wait to see what kind of teammates and players they develop into. I think our team has come a long way since last year. There is a really great foundation here.”
Schleicher’s love of the game has kept her coming back year after year since she began playing as a second-grader.
“I love the competitiveness,” Schleicher said. “Knowing there are so many good players all over the country pushes me to strive to be my best. It’s taught me what it’s like to win and to lose. I’ve learned how to bounce back from disappointment, how to be a good teammate, and most importantly, it’s showed me that if you want something you have to work hard to get it. Being a Hurricane means being a part of a community of love and support, and I’m so proud to be one.”
She’ll be taking her talents to Boston College next year, where her cousin will be joining her. Smith committed to the college as a freshman.
“I’m beyond excited to play with Belle again,” said Schleicher, who noted the chemistry with her cousin in games past. “She has been my biggest teacher throughout my lacrosse career and I couldn’t be more excited to be playing with my best friend. As cliché as it sounds, the first time I picked up the stick I knew I was going to play this sport forever.”