Lindsay Darrell set up her defender at the top of the 8-meter arc. She created space with a jab step left, then quickly drove to the right and readied herself once within range. Darrell juked to her right, slung the lacrosse stick around herself and fired a behind-the-back shot.

"Whoa!'' a fan screamed. "There's a reason she's going to Northwestern!'' The West Islip crowd went wild.

The shot went wide.

"I was a little off; I didn't turn my shoulders in enough,'' Darrell said sheepishly of her showstopping attempt that missed by a few inches with 18 minutes remaining. "I was disappointed in myself for that.''

Her audience wasn't. Because when you're that good, even the misses are among the greatest hits.

Darrell had two goals, two assists, nine ground balls and six draw controls in leading host West Islip over Ward Melville, 12-9, Wednesday in Suffolk Division I.

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This victory "basically sends a message that we're for real,'' said Riley Hill, who scored her four goals in the first half. "It lets everyone know that we've come to play.''

The Lions (10-0) have come to win. West Islip lost in the Suffolk quarterfinals last season, but this year has beaten several longtime powerhouses, announcing itself as a true contender. Ward Melville reached the Suffolk final the last two seasons.

"This,'' Darrell said, "was definitely a statement game for us.''

Emily Piciullo had three goals, an assist and six ground balls for the Lions. Emily Beier added two goals, and Shannon McFadden made six saves.

"Ward Melville is a strong team,'' Hill said, "so it was important to set the tone early.''

But Ward Melville made it close late, rallying from an 8-3 deficit in the second half and pulling within 11-9 on Alex Vignona's goal with 4:01 left. The Patriots won the ensuing draw, but West Islip forced a turnover and Beier scored with 1:36 left. Morgan Graham and Sam Nemirov each scored twice, and Emma Jehle had 13 saves for Ward Melville (7-3).

Darrell was the X-factor throughout. Her speed and craftiness were on display, as was the agility when she tumbled while scoring with an underhand shot to make it 8-3. Another highlight came with 19:48 remaining, when she outran an opponent to a loose ball, despite starting 15 yards behind.

"Lindsay is just a phenomenal, hard-nosed player who does it all for us,'' coach Joe Nicolosi said. "She brings a lot of energy and excitement.''

Hit or miss.