It was the perfect setup: Bay Shore, the team with the unstoppable offense, trying to overcome Ward Melville, the team with the immovable defense.
Last year, the two squads went blow for blow until the Suffolk Class A final, when the Marauders beat WM's Patriots at their own game, running a suffocating backer defense that limited Ward Melville to five goals. Bay Shore moved on, competed in the state tournament as an underdog, and came just short.
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Expectations for both teams were deferred. A rematch seemed inevitable.
Led by All-American midfielder Emily Rogers-Healion, Ally Tilley, Maddy Wollmuth and attacker Yuna Hur, an offensively-minded Ward Melville hopes to cut down on the small-margin wins of yesteryear. Deryn Blaney shifts to backer on defense -- key on a team that allowed more than 10 goals only twice last year.
To be the best they'll have to beat the Long Island champions. Bay Shore returns junior Kyra Harney, a hard-nosed midfielder committed to Duke. Midfielder Cynthia Del Core and attacker Carly Cox spearhead an athletic, experienced team. Senior defender Perri Baker will be a vocal leader.
After losing to East Islip in the quarterfinals, a stacked Northport returns hungry. Two-time All-American Cortney Fortunato leads an offense that includes Paige Bonomi, Allie Pavinelli, and Dorrien Van Dyke. "They're mature, confident and making better decisions," coach Carol Rose said.
For East Islip, look no further than Syracuse-bound sophomore attacker Nicole Levy, second on Long Island in assists last year. An explosive offense is bolstered by midfielders Shannon Cummings (key on ground balls) and Carlee Ancona. They, along with middie Elizabeth Vetter, will be big on the draw.
With the graduation of the Suffolk player of the year, West Babylon hopes to regroup behind Samantha Apuzzo, moving to midfield from attack, and Samantha and Jessica Geiersbach. Sachem East is strong behind Katie Trombetta and Casey Gelderman, but will depend on three-year goalie Kyle Larkin and defender Karyn Ryan after losing a bulk of its defense. Middle Country is led by midfielder Nikki Ortega (Notre Dame) and sister Jamie. Alexis Maffucci (Johns Hopkins) gives Half Hollow Hills an edge, while Cara Douglas and Lindsay Darrell lead a formidable West Islip.Class B
Defending champ Eastport-South Manor will be stingy thanks to goalie Samantha Giacolone and defenders Rebecca Tooker, Dakota Mason and Natalie Fuccillo. "A completely different team" after the graduation of All-American midfielder Dené DiMartino, ESM expects big returns from attacker Kristin Anderson, coach Becky Thorn said. The Sharks will have stiff competition from Harborfields (Sarah Crowley and Christine Turner), which returns key players on all parts of the field.
Sayville shines behind Olivia Russell, Taylor Mills, Caroline DeLuca and goalie Gianna Minogue. Rocky Point (Kristine Loscalzo, Alyssa Guido) has an added offensive weapon in Alyssa Milano, back from ACL injury. Maggie Pizzo and Carley Seekamp lead East Hampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson.Class C
One of the hottest contests will be with state champion Shoreham-Wading River, Mount Sinai and Babylon all fielding big talent. A balanced and well-conditioned SWR has 19 returnees, including a midfield of seniors Jessica Angerman, Alex Fehmel and Paulina Constant, along with junior Shannon Rosati. Expect a stifling defense behind Meredith Bushell and Meghan King. Stud sophomore goalie Lauren Daly (Boston College) clogs up the cage.
Mount Sinai has a smorgasbord of scorers, led by gritty two-time All-American middie Caroline Fitzgerald, one of the best on Long Island. Shayna and Sydney Pirreca are fast, strong and dangerous. Other key returnees include attackers Kasey Mitchell and Danielle DellaRocca, and goalie Julia Michaels. Babylon is confident behind three-time All-County midfielder Shelby Fredericks, midfielder Kaileen Hart, attacker Devyn Antolini, and defender Kerry Glenday. Cassie Stucklen leads Bayport-Blue Point.