Tessie Maerz likes to fly just under the radar, but there was no avoiding the spotlight last Saturday morning at Wayne Shierant Field at Alumni Stadium. The Huntington High School junior scored in sudden death overtime to lift the Blue Devil field hockey team to an upset victory over West Islip on the Lions’ Homecoming Day, 2-1.
Maerz’s heroics and the inspired play of her teammates, including an incredible series of dazzling saves by junior goalie Carlee Schultz propelled the Blue Devils into a Wednesday afternoon playoff game at highly regarded Northport at 4 p.m.
“It feels absolutely amazing,” said Maerz after the game. “I was so excited when I saw the ball go in. We all were so pumped and we could not contain our happiness. Everyone played so amazing and we could not have won without everyone. This was a huge win for us. It brings us closer together as a team and makes us so excited for what’s next come. We are all looking forward to the next playoff game and we’re going to give it our all.”
The victory improved Huntington’s record to 12-5. It’s the most wins ever in a single season by a Blue Devil field hockey team. West Islip fell to 8-7.
Huntington opened the season way back on September 2 with a 3-1 loss to West Islip, so last Saturday’s victory was especially sweet. The Blue Devils dominated the first half before the Lions came roaring back. Schultz was spectacular in the cage, with nine saves, including many that came on blistering shots. The teenager played like a champion and worked in sync with the team’s talented defense.
“We have pushed through so many challenges this season and we earned this win,” Schultz said. “We worked so hard in this game and I’m so proud of us for pushing through another overtime.”
Maerz’s goal in the seven-on-seven sudden death overtime period came off an assist by junior midfield Laurel Bonn, who put her skills, athleticism and aggressiveness on display for the crowd of 200.
“This game was a battle from start to finish,” Bonn said. “I am so beyond proud of everyone and we are super excited play at Northport on Wednesday.”
Gemma Cartwright put Huntington ahead 1-0 and the Blue Devils took the lead into halftime, but West Islip couldn’t be denied as Camryn Cinotti scored off an assist by Kelsey McCabe in the second half. The score stayed knotted through the end of regulation. Overtime saw both teams reduce the number of players on the field to seven each and a more wide open style of play followed, setting the stage for Maerz to work her magic.
The Blue Devils repeatedly came up big on both offense and defense, racing across the field to run down balls or confront West Islip’s powerful front line and midfield.
“It was amazing winning the game today,” junior forward Kaci McDonald said. “We were all so excited to play. The plan for this win today was us transferring the ball.” The plan clearly worked.
Maerz, who assisted on Huntington’s first goal, uses her speed and stick skills to dominate opposing defenses. The teenager frequently finds herself in the right place at the right time and Saturday was one of those days.
West Islip goalie Julianna Kotarski played a superb game, too, recording seven saves. “West Islip is a great team with a great coaching staff,” said Huntington head coach Kathy Wright, who is assisted by Allison Conlon and Ellyn Byrnes. “Their players are incredible competitors. They made us earn it every minute.”
While a handful of Huntington’s players got their names in the newspaper, many others had key roles in the playoff win, the first by the Blue Devils in many years.
Huntington’s playoff roster includes freshman Charlotte Curtin; sophomores Jordan Paniccia, Brooke Parks, Olivia Polinsky and Ella O’Heir; juniors Grace Agrillo, Grace Allen, Laurel Bonn, Gemma Cartwright, Laura Curtin, Quinn Fox, Tessie Maerz, Markella Markotsis, Kaci McDonald, Kathryn Meagher, Rachel Morina, Abigail Pawlak, Erin Scanlon, Carlee Schultz and Stephanie Wickey; and senior Lauren Holly.
While Northport is one of the top teams in the state and a perennial Suffolk champion, the Blue Devils are just happy to be on the field for another playoff game. Huntington knows it has nothing to lose and thus the team feels little pressure, with players ready to let it all hang out and give it their all.