No amount of rain could damper the Northport field hockey team’s parade toward a state title.
Northport took a commanding three-goal lead in the Class A state semifinal on Saturday at Centereach High School, but with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter the match was delayed due to inclement weather in the area. The fans were told to go to their cars and the players were sent back to their locker rooms.
"The girls were very serious and just wanted to get back out there and finish the job," Northport coach Gina Walling said. "We wanted to take the wind out of our opponents’ sails right away once we started back up, and knew if we did that, we’d be able to finish the game in a position where we just had to possess."
The match restarted after about an hour and a half interruption, and just two minutes later Angelina Longo scored off a pass from Olivia McKenna to give Northport a four-goal cushion in its 5-0 win over Section VI’s Clarence.
Northport improved to 20-0 and will face Section II’s Shenendehowa on Sunday at 3 p.m. at Centereach in the state final. The Tigers handed Clarence (17-2) its second loss of the season, recorded their 17th shutout and have outscored their opponents 108-6.
"It’s going to be hard to sleep tonight, but everyone is going to do their best to get as much rest as possible," McKenna said.
Sophia Bica scored the opening goal less than two minutes into the match off an assist by McKenna, who also assisted on Shannon Smith’s first goal that gave Northport a 2-0 first-quarter lead. Bica tallied the third goal off a rebound following a McKenna shot in the second quarter, and Smith capped the scoring in the fourth quarter after receiving a pass from Longo.
"We tried to come out after the delay and act like it was a zero-zero game," Shannon Smith said. "Even though we were leading, we didn’t want to take anything for granted."
Walling, the reigning Newsday Coach of the Year, led her team to a Long Island Class A title in the Covid-altered 2021 spring season, but couldn’t take her team further because the state championships were canceled. The Tigers are just one win away from answering the question, what could have been?
"I received some bad news about a close friend of mine earlier in the week, who told me that you need to live every day for something that is good for your soul," Walling said. "I told the team that you are good for my soul and give it everything you had. Walk off the field with no regrets. They did that today and I hope it can carry on to tomorrow."