Say one thing for the Ward Melville field hockey players — they listen to their coach.
After host Sachem East pulled within a goal early in the second half Thursday, Patriots players like Lexi Reinhardt could hear Watson’s voice in her head.
“She always tells us, ‘Stay calm and stay composed,’ ” Reinhardt said. “We did just that. We played calm, composed and strong.”
The defending Long Island Class A champ Patriots also did something they have done all year: win. Ward Melville held off Sachem East, 2-1, in a Suffolk I game and a rematch of last season’s thrilling Suffolk A semifinal. Ward Melville overcame a three-goal halftime deficit in that game, forced overtime, and pulled out a 4-3 double-overtime victory on Oct. 29, 2015.
“I told the girls that today’s game was more about emotion than anything else,” Watson said. “You have two great schools, two great programs, and a great rivalry.”
That rivalry was rekindled early when Long Island’s leading scorer, junior forward Kerri Thornton, scored off a penalty corner from her sister, senior center back Kaitlin, just 7:45 into the game.
Kerri Thornton has scored in six of her team’s seven games this season, and has 15 goals, one assist and 16 points for Ward Melville (7-0). Reinhardt scored about 10 minutes later off a rebound in front and the Patriots led, 2-0.
“The ball just came to me, the goalie was off to the side, and I pushed it in,” said Reinhardt, a sophomore. “It was an awesome feeling.”
But that feeling was short-lived as Sachem East’s Maria Esguerra scored off an assist from Kayla Miranda just 1:45 into the second half and the lead was cut in half, 2-1.
Sachem East (4-3) kept the pressure on in the second half, but goalie Bella Nelin (five saves) and the Patriots defense including Kaitlin Thornton, Rosalie Paglia and Kelly Quinn were more than up to the challenge. Sachem East goalie Marissa Cuevas made 11 saves.
“It was great to have Bella back after she missed two games with an injury,” Watson said. “The team was very confident to have her with her strength in the cage.”
That strength and confidence flows throughout the entire team as Ward Melville, which lost in double overtime by a goal in the 2015 state championship game, looks to continue its success.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Reinhardt said. “We wanted to make a statement today, and continue where we left off.”