Alex Hutchins, Emily DeGennaro help Shoreham-Wading River field hockey make playoffs

Shoreham-Wading River's Alexandra Hutchins moves the ball up Shoreham-Wading River's Alexandra Hutchins moves the ball up field during the second half. (Oct. 24, 2013) Photo Credit: Daniel De Mato

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After a 1-5 start, about the best thing the Shoreham-Wading River field hockey team could've hoped for in the last week of the regular season was the opportunity to do some scoreboard watching.

Well, in this age, it was more Twitter scrolling, actually. But the Wildcats needed something -- a glimmer of hope -- to give tangible meaning to these final few games.

"On the bus ride back from Port Jefferson [on Monday], we were reading the tweets from the Harborfields game," forward Alex Hutchins said. "We knew if they lost that would give us an opening."

Open sesame!

The Wildcats completed an improbable turnaround and secured the final Suffolk Class B playoff berth with a 1-0 victory over Bayport-Blue Point on Thursday.

Hutchins scored with 20:50 remaining and Emily DeGennaro made seven saves to lead Shoreham (10-6) in Division III. Meghan Smith had six saves for the Phantoms (5-9).

Harborfields began the week with a slight lead in power points over Shoreham, but the Tornadoes were upset by Greenport/Southold in a shootout. Suddenly, a door that a month ago seemed deadbolted had creaked open for the Wildcats.

"Our coach [J.M. Jackson] was letting us know what the other teams were doing," Hutchins said. "It was stressful not being able to control the situation, but you have to lock in and focus on what you're doing."

Certainly so, since the Wildcats still needed to win out to earn that fourth seed. Taylor Flanagan's goal lifted them in a 1-0 win over Port Jefferson on Monday, putting them in position to clinch Thursday.

"Games like these might freak you out, but I think all that pressure made us play harder," said DeGennaro, who had her third straight shutout. "I know when we win in these situations it's so much sweeter."

Hutchins, positioned on the left post, took a cross from Melissa Manzello and tapped it into the near corner. DeGennaro and the defense made it hold.

The recent shutouts, DeGennaro said, are indicative of the Wildcats' growth as the season progressed.

This isn't the old Shoreham-Wading River dynasty -- the giant that hopscotched through regular seasons and won consecutive Suffolk titles from 2007-2010. But for what this group may lack in star power and reputation, it surely has compensated for with poise and resilience.

"People used to look at us like, 'Oh, no, it's Shoreham,' " said DeGennaro, a junior. "But now being an underdog is kind of exciting. We have a chance to shake things up."

The Wildcats face rival Miller Place, the defending Long Island Class B champs, in the semifinals at 2:30 p.m. Monday. Shoreham's late-season run, coincidentally, was sparked by its 1-0 overtime win over the Panthers on Oct. 5. That was Miller Place's only regular-season loss since 2011.

"That game gave us a lot of confidence and now we believe we have the ability to do it," DeGennaro said. "It's gonna be an intense game but we're ready for it."

And from here on, the only scoreboards -- or tweets -- the Wildcats will have to worry about are their own. After all: #PLAYOFFS

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