Emilia Retzlaff #23 of Ward Melville reacts after scoring the...

Emilia Retzlaff #23 of Ward Melville reacts after scoring the opening goal in a non-league girls lacrosse game against host Garden City High School on Monday, March 27, 2023. She recorded three goals and two assists to lead Ward Melville to an 8-7 win. Credit: James Escher

Talk about testing yourself from Day One.

Ward Melville and Garden City both ended their respective girls lacrosse seasons with one-goal losses in a championship game last year. All the returning players had the entire offseason to replay those outcomes and think about what could have gone differently to prolong the season.

“It’s always in the back of our mind and prepares us for this season,” said Emilia Retzlaff, a senior midfielder for Ward Melville. “It pushes us even harder and we were so close, just one goal away from winning a county championship and it motivates us. It really does.”

The two teams have aspirations to return to championship stages as the weather warms come May and June but before that, they want to challenge themselves as often as possible. That happened Monday as Ward Melville defeated Garden City, 8-7, in both team’s girls lacrosse non-league season-openers.

“I was telling them before the game that this is like the Long Island championships before the Long Island championships,” coach Stephanie Peragallo said. “It’s Nassau vs. Suffolk, two really good teams and we had to put on a good showing and make a statement. And today we did.”

Ward Melville lost in the Suffolk Class A final last season. Garden City fell in the Long Island Class B championship. The two teams also played an early non-league matchup last season, which Ward Melville won, 11-10.

“This year, they wanted revenge,” Retzlaff said. “They were out to take us down so I think this is a great way to start the season.”

Retzlaff had three goals, two assists and a strong game with draw controls and caused turnovers. Retzlaff intercepted a pass and found Kate Spinks for a goal to give Ward Melville an 8-4 lead with 16:18 left in the second half.

“I told her a bunch of times, I’ve never seen her play as well as she did this preseason and it was so clear with the abundance of plays she made on the offensive and defensive end,” Peragallo said. “She’s so important to us and vital to our success and I think everyone feeds off her energy.”

Garden City scored the game’s final three goals and had possession with 50 seconds left. But Kristin Vosswinkel caused a turnover and scooped the ground ball as the Patriots ran the clock out.

Spinks had three goals and Ava Carrillo had 10 saves — including multiple point-blank saves early in the first half. 

“I always think having a good save will really bring the team up,” Carrillo said. “Just anytime someone does something good it really makes the morale better on the team.”

Garden City called a timeout with 50 seconds left before Ward Melville forced the game-sealing turnover. The Patriots had a man advantage at the time and were able to double-team the ball as play resumed. Peragallo was confident Vosswinkel would make a pivotal defensive play.

“She’s our captain, she’s a senior, she’s incredible and I just knew she was going to be the one to get it,” Peragallo said. “I thought it was really important in that timeout that Garden City called for us to get organized. We had people put in specific spots and everyone did their job.”

Maureen Arendt had three goals and an assist for Garden City.

Ward Melville hopes to win its first county title since 2007 after falling to Northport, 8-7, last year.
“This huge win really brings us together even more and boosts our confidence,” Retzlaff said. “This prepares us for even more competition ready to come at us.”

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