Oceanside defense keeping opponents down
Defense . . . (clap, clap)
No, that's not an in-game chant, but a round of applause for a unit that nearly pulled off the near-impossible last Wednesday.
Oceanside held an opponent to two goals. Yes, in girls lacrosse, where "D" is sometimes nothing more than the fourth letter in the alphabet. The Sailors stifled Syosset, 5-2, in a Nassau Class A quarterfinal and earned their first trip to the semis since 2009.
Most stunning, actually, is that the performance wasn't all that surprising. Oceanside is allowing 7.7 goals per game, and Wednesday was the sixth time they held an offense to five or fewer. They've done it to four of their last five opponents.
"It's a commitment to doing all the small things like ground balls and draw controls,"
Oceanside coach Ken Dwyer said. The fourth-seeded Sailors (10-6), who missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker last year, have won eight of their last nine games.
It starts with their backer zone defense, led by midfielder Heather Burns, who pressures the ball carrier up top. Behind her, forming an 8-meter force field, is Kayla Flynn, Annie Intrabartola, Danielle D'Angelo, Kelly Backus and Stephanie Keane, the backer.
"They've developed an attitude like, 'Not only aren't people going to score, but we don't want them getting shots off,' " Dwyer said.
And when opponents do -- Syosset managed 15 -- there's the star goalie, Jessica Maxwell. She made 10 saves in that game, and is among the Long Island leaders with 170 this season. "She doesn't have a weakness," Dwyer said of the senior stopper. "She has great positioning, quick hands, and she's a vocal leader for us."
That defensive dominance has been necessary, especially as of late, since Oceanside lost leading scorer Danielle Montano (50 goals) to a torn ACL in the regular-season finale. The offense now runs through Courtney Collins (43 points), Sydney Oshinsky (32 points) and Keane (22 goals).
The Sailors now face their most daunting challenge yet: seven-time defending Nassau champion Farmingdale in the semifinal Tuesday at Adelphi. The top-seeded Dalers, by the way, enter averaging over 17 goals per game.
"We know about their great history and we're respectful of that," Dwyer said. "But these kids play with confidence and heart, and I have to believe anything is possible with a group like this."