The career goal total is staggering, the point total even gaudier. But of all of the 510 career points that Middle Country (N.Y.) lacrosse standout Jamie Ortega has amassed in her six-year varsity girls lacrosse career, one assist in particular stands out to her head coach.
Middle Country coach Lindsay Dolson can explain.
“We were at West Islip, and Jamie was in eighth or ninth grade,” said Dolson, now in her 10th year coaching the Wolverines. “A ball was going out of bounds, and she sprinted after it and reached it at about the 40-yard line. Right before the ball went out, Jamie flicked it with her stick, right onto Nikki’s stick and Nikki went in to score. We won by two or three, but that moment stuck with me.”
Nikki is Jamie Ortega’s older sister, two grades ahead of the player Inside Lacrosse named the country’s No. 1 senior recruit entering the year. Just as Jamie Ortega has been a fixture on the varsity team since she was in seventh grade, so was Nikki, now a sophomore playing at Notre Dame who was the first Ortega to reach the 500-point plateau. For the Fighting Irish, Ortega is fourth on the team in scoring (18 goals, 16 assists).
Jamie Ortega, a senior at Centereach High, will be headed to the University of North Carolina in the fall.
Before she heads to Chapel Hill, the midfielder is putting up eye-popping scoring numbers not seen since she and her sister were teaming up to wreak havoc. Ortega’s four goals and assist in Monday’s 17-6 win at Half Hollow Hills not only improved Middle Country to 8-1 within the state, but also brought the senior star’s career goal total to 350.
Not that you would hear her talk about the individual feat.
“I just try and use all my teammates and try to get them opportunities in the game,” Ortega said. “We use picks to get open. Especially when I get face guarded, I think they look for me and trust me with any pass that they throw me.”
Her coach sees Ortega’s individual accomplishments as coming through the natural progression of her play.
“It just comes so natural to her, playing the game how it is supposed to be played,” Dolson said. “She does those things because she needs to do it for the team, not because she wants to build stats or anything like that. She got her 500th point last week against West Islip, and at the end of the game with the team I said ‘Congrats to Jamie for 504 points.’ She said ‘Thanks,’ but she really doesn’t keep track of that stuff.
“It’s wins and losses, and how she plays illustrates that,” Dolson added. “Jamie likes to cause more turnovers than score goals. She does a great job on the run for us, gets a lot of balls back. When she scores seven, eight, nine points in a game, it’s not piling on like she wants to score more goals.”
For Ortega and her teammates, there is some unfinished business that has their full attention. Despite the best efforts of the Ortegas and the myriad other strong players who have come through the program (there are five Div. I commits on this year’s team), the Middle Country team that joins players from both Centereach and Newfield has never won a Suffolk County Class A title. The last three years, West Islip has ended Middle Country’s season. That includes an 11-10 decision in overtime of the Class A final in 2015, a run to the final Ortega recalls as her favorite time in high school lacrosse.
“It’s been a really good year, it being my senior year and having such great chemistry and the connection with each other that this could be our year,” Ortega said. “We hope to make it all the way. So far it’s gone well, as we keep coming closer as a team and as a family.”
When Dolson took over the program heading into the 2008 season, she says it was ranked 22nd out of 23 teams in Div. I in Suffolk County. Her first two years, the team missed out on postseason berths. Then, in 2010, Nikki Ortega arrived. The team hasn’t missed the postseason since Sue and Lou Ortega’s daughters have been on the team.
With that one hustle-meets-skill play several years back having left a tattoo on Dolson’s memory, upon the team’s trip the following season to West Islip, the coach wanted to underscore the impact one play can have.
“I brought them back to the spot on the field and said, ‘Remember this spot? When the ball was going out and Jamie flicked it back into play?’ I wanted them to remember what those hustle plays can do for a team.”
The player who executed this particular play has worked wonders. Don’t expect her to stop anytime soon.