Manhasset Secondary School’s girls’ lacrosse team is feeling a bit of pressure as it enters its preseason, said senior Captain Kelly Trotta after the team’s first official practice of the year. But, she said, it’s good pressure.
The team came off its last season at the top of the Nike/U.S. Lacrosse High School Girls’ national ranking, and now in preseason rankings it remains at the top, bumping Maryland’s McDonough School, which held the crown for eight consecutive years.
“It’s something we’re definitely going to try to keep as long as possible, and it makes the season just that much more exciting for us,” said Captain Erin Trotta, Kelly’s twin.
The team is operating under new leadership, with Meg Clarke, who had been the first assistant coach for six years, replacing Danielle Gallagher as head coach and Jaclyn Morrison joining the team as the second assistant coach.
Twenty-two members of last year’s team are returning this season, Clarke said.
Returning players know what success on the team feels like, Erin Trotta said.
The team earned its first state title since 2014 last June, beating Brighton High School in the Class B Championship. The victory topped off a season in which the girls only lost once.
The Manhasset Board of Education’s August decision not to renew Gallagher’s coaching contract catalyzed a petition to bring the coach back and prompted players and their parents to vocalize disapproval at school board meetings.
At the time, players such as Kelly Trotta questioned the decision, saying it was not in the team’s best interest.
The board would not disclose the reason for the non-renewal.
Now, as the season is set to launch, Erin Trotta said the transition in leadership would not hinder the group.
“I know that was definitely something that might seem shocking or might throw us off our game, but I think our coaches…changing isn’t necessarily a speed bump but just keeps us where we’re at and keeps our heads focused,” she said.
Clarke said that while she will initiate some changes in the lacrosse program, changes which she declined to elaborate on, much will remain the same.
The coaches understand the importance of balancing hard work and fun, Erin Trotta said. They serve as good role models for the captains, she said.
The girls held biweekly practices in the offseason and competed in a two-weekend tournament in New Jersey in early February.
“I think we played really well as a team,” Erin Trotta said. “It was almost as if we hadn’t stopped playing together.”
The team’s defenders this season are seniors who already have a lot of athletic chemistry, she said. And though the offense is newer and younger, that group has a lot of potential, she added.
“We always play a very tough schedule, so each game is going to be a challenge,” said Clarke, who also teaches first grade at Shelter Rock Elementary School.
One opponent this year will be McDonough. It should be an exciting match-up given that team’s history, Captain Olivia Dooley said.
The team is also planning to travel to California this season, both to play a game and provide a space for the girls to enjoy time together, she said. A similar trip to Florida last year likely contributed to the team’s success in the state championship because it fostered team bonding, she said.
The Trotta twins, who have been playing lacrosse since kindergarten, and Dooley, who joined them in fifth grade, said leading the team is an honor, but also feels bittersweet.
“I’m sad that it’s my last year at Manhasset, but I’m looking forward to what’s to come,” Dooley said.