If you blink, you won’t see her. If you don’t listen closely, you won’t hear her. But if you watch her play, you’ll be amazed at what you see.
Centereach’s Jamie Ortega, a soft-spoken senior on the Middle Country girls lacrosse team, isn’t your ordinary midfielder. Blazing speed, incomparable stick skills and a natural lefthanded shot make Ortega arguably Long Island’s top all-around player.
Met with faceguards nearly every time she had the ball, Ortega led Suffolk in points last season with 128 (82 goals, 46 assists) en route to being named a member of Newsday’s All-Long Island first team.
Her effort was enough to propel the Mad Dogs to a No. 2 seed and a trip to the Suffolk A semifinals against third-seeded West Islip. The Lions ended Middle Country’s hopes of a county title, however, winning, 11-7. Ortega doesn’t want this season to end the same way.
“It’s my last year, my senior year,” she said. “There’s really nothing to lose. I just feel like it’s now or never. I won’t have another ‘next year’ to think about doing it again. This year, everyone has to work their hardest and really pull through.”
Ortega said she’s the type of leader who will do anything to boost the team’s morale. If Middle Country needs the ball, she’ll do whatever is necessary to get it. If they need a goal, she’ll dodge and make a run at the cage.
Above all, Ortega leads by her willingness to learn.
“She’s the most humble and coachable kid that I’ve ever had,” coach Lindsay Dolson said. “She doesn’t have a chip on her shoulder; she tries to help everyone be the best that they can be.”
Yet, Ortega has ample reasons to act like one of the best. For one, Inside Lacrosse named her the No. 1 senior recruit in the nation. She signed to play at North Carolina, the defending NCAA champions, and she took her first college visit in ninth grade when she toured Syracuse.
Perhaps her drive is the reason for the accolades. As talented as she is, Ortega always strives for more.
“I always want to be better,” she said. “People who want to be better will get better if they put the time and effort into it. I feel like I always do. I’m always trying to improve my game.”
Dolson said many of Ortega’s skills are natural. Her instincts and vision are unteachable, as is the type of speed that can leave any defender in the dust.
Much of that comes from picking up lacrosse at a young age, thanks to her older sister, Nikki, a sophomore attack at Notre Dame who was Newsday’s Player of the Year in 2015.
“She’d always practice with me, and our dad would always make us go practice together,” Jamie said. “We’ve always had a rivalry. I’d mess around and say I’m better, and she’d mess around and say she’s better. But we always support each other.”
The sisters will square off against each other next spring at UNC, and Jamie said she’s looking forward to the opportunity to play against Nikki.
Her focus, however, is solely on the present season. The Mad Dogs are intent on capitalizing on a senior class that includes Ava Barry, Amy Hofer and sisters Amanda and Rachel Masullo.
Speed is their overwhelming strength, and Dolson said her strategy is to dictate the tempo of their games this season.
“I think we’re a very fast team and we have to use that to our advantage,” she said.
Headlining their sprint to a county title is Ortega. Don’t blink. You’ll miss her.