The Middle Country girls lacrosse team knows how to use a run to its advantage.
Second-seeded Middle Country’s 7-0 run in the first half of Friday’s 14-9 win over No. 7 Sachem North in a Suffolk Class A quarterfinal at Newfield High School was sparked by Jamie Ortega, who credited her team’s in-practice conditioning for making them faster.
“Speed is pretty much our whole game,” said Ortega, who had six goals and an assist thanks to her ability to breeze by a horde of defenders. “We try and stay fast-paced with fast breaks.”
Ortega isn’t the only one who forces defenders to keep chase. Twins Amanda and Rachel Masullo are blurs on the field, and Ava Barry can go from the eight-meter line to the cage in the blink of an eye.
“As much as we hate all the miles we do, it really does benefit us, and we’ve gotten better from it every time,” Barry said.
Middle Country’s fast sets and coordinated cuts resulted in quick strike after quick strike in the first half. After Sachem North’s Eve Calabria tied the game at 3-3 early in the first, Middle Country (16-1) went on a blistering run that would prove to be the difference.
Ortega began the stretch by assisting Jennifer Barry with 15:32 remaining in the half. Ortega added three goals and Sophie Alois added two before the run culminated with three minutes left in the half and Middle Country leading 10-3.
Sachem North (10-8) scored five of the contest’s final seven tallies in the second half, but Middle Country had built a sturdy enough lead early to withstand the rally.
Middle Country coach Lindsay Dolson said last year’s loss in the Suffolk finals to West Islip inspired her change the way she prepares her team.
“I can’t expect to get better results with the same expectations, so we raised the bar a little bit,” she said of the team’s increased focus on running.
Middle Country will host No. 3 West Islip on Wednesday at 4 p.m. in the Suffolk Class A semifinals, and Ortega is convinced that her team’s preparation will pay off.
“This is our time,” she said. “This is our run.”