Jenna Soto shoots and scores one of her nine goals...

Jenna Soto shoots and scores one of her nine goals in Smithtown East’s Suffolk Class A quarterfinal win on Friday, May 19, 2023. Credit: Dawn McCormick

Jenna Soto is playing through a quad injury. You’d never be able to guess that with her performance on Friday.

The junior attack had nine goals to lead No. 5 Smithtown East to a 12-9 victory over host No. 4 Commack in the Suffolk Class A girls lacrosse quarterfinals on Friday. Soto’s been working with her trainer to feel as healthy as possible for the playoffs because there was no chance she was staying on the sidelines.

“I’ve been working hard enough to know no injury is stopping me in a game,” Soto said. “And I feel like I was able to push through and do it for my team. At the end of the day, it’s all about the team. Yes, I scored nine goals but I really did it for my team to move on.”

Smithtown East (11-5) advances to play at top-seeded Ward Melville (15-1) in the semifinals at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

Soto said she felt strong entering Friday. Maybe not strong enough to guarantee a nine-goal performance, but she felt confident.

“It’s ridiculous,” coach BrieClaire Sheehy said. “She’s one of those workers where she’s so driven. When it comes to big games, she shows up and that’s something we’re really proud of her for stepping up when we really need her to.”

Soto worked alongside Ava Arceri, who had two goals and five assists. Soto scored on all five of Arceri’s assists as the two displayed their chemistry throughout the matchup.

“We work like that in practice and I’m not surprised it showed off on the field because we love to see each other succeed,” Arceri said. “The whole team loves our chemistry together. They are so pumped when we work off each other.”

Smithtown East went on a 7-0 run for a span of 7:40 to take a 12-8 lead with 6:55 left in the second half. Emma Hendry had four goals for Commack (12-5).

When Arceri holds the ball in the offensive zone, there’s never a question as to who her number one target is. Others know it also but sometimes their timing is just so perfect there’s nearly no way of stopping it.

“I always know when she’s there,” Arceri said. “I see her stick and I know she’s going to catch it. That’s why I love working with Jenna because she doesn’t even need to be looking at me and she’ll know she’s getting the ball from me. It’s just something we do in practice and people are often just saying, ‘Wow.’ ”

Arceri scored the tying goal and added an impressive go-ahead goal with 12:38 left in the second half. She saw a 1-on-1 opportunity, took two large strides to the right and fired to the bottom-left corner of the cage to give Smithtown East a 9-8 advantage.

“I didn’t see a double team coming so I was like, 'This is the perfect time,' " Arceri said. “It’s now or never and I was confident in what I could do and I finished the ball.”

Despite trailing 6-5 at halftime and 8-5 with 20 minutes left, Smithtown East remained confident.

“In past games, we always put our heads down when being down one or two (goals) and I think today, we knew we had fire under us,” Soto said. “And I think that lets us know we are able to beat any team that we want.”

The Bulls had last year’s final game on their minds after falling to Commack, 12-11, in the same round of the playoffs last spring. That feeling of walking off with the loss never left them.

“We knew this game was going to be a rematch of last year and we didn’t want the same outcome,” Soto said. “We chose today to turn it around and not have the same outcome as last year.”

Sheehy credited her entire team for the victory. Soto and Arceri will get much of the attention with their high point totals, but Sheehy stressed they needed the entire team to advance to the semifinals.

“It was a full team effort,” Sheehy said. “To highlight those two, yes they were our finishers, but it was a full team effort and everyone worked together to pull out this win.”

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