The Westhampton girls lacrosse team is out to prove a point, and the Hurricanes have all the Belles and whistles to back it up.
Ousted in last spring’s Suffolk Class C championship game, the Hurricanes are on a mission to show that their success wasn’t a flash in the pan. They showcased a prolific offense on a chilly, misty Tuesday evening at Islip, defeating the host Buccaneers, 16-4, in Suffolk Division II.
Belle Smith paced the team with three goals, six assists and nine draw controls in her second game back from a four-game absence because of a right ankle sprain. Hollie Schleicher had two goals, three assists, three ground balls and two caused turnovers.
“It makes the season so much more exciting,” Smith said of the expectations. “We got there and we’re going to show it wasn’t a fluke. We can be there, and not only can we be there, we can beat those teams.”
Westhampton (4-2) started fast, as Smith scored on a free position then assisted Schleicher cutting down the middle for a 9-0 lead. Natalia Gonzalez and Kristen Scheidel then scored consecutively for Islip (4-3), but Schleicher assisted Toni Cashman just before halftime to send Westhampton into the break with a 10-2 lead.
The Hurricanes initiated the running clock in the second half when Smith assisted Makayla Hofmann (three goals) for a 13-3 lead. They connected again two minutes later for a 14-3 lead.
A 16-6 advantage on draws fueled Westhampton, and Schleicher said, “The draw is our main focus at all times. Once you get the draw, you control the game.”
With Smith injured — a stretch during which Westhampton went 2-2 — the Hurricanes learned to create offense without their top playmaker. In Smith’s absence, her teammates proved that they’re more than capable of scoring, too.
Schleicher took on an expanded role, as did Cashman, Hofmann, Maureen Duffy, Kyleigh Tufano and Giana Murphy. With Smith back in the fold, Westhampton still utilized eight scorers against Islip.
“I think what we learned, mostly, is that although we love having Belle and she’s obviously one of the best aspects of our team, we’ve learned confidence as a group and we’ve learned that we can do it without her,” Schleicher said.
That confidence is paramount to how far Westhampton goes this season, in Smith’s opinion.
“It forced the offense to figure out what they’re doing without a puzzle piece,” the junior said.
Now that the puzzle’s complete, Westhampton is hoping to ring the victory Belle come season’s end.