As the final buzzer sounded, Manhasset junior defenseman Casey Roszko felt her eyes begin to water. Her cheeks were bright red as she tried to catch her breath after the many miles she had run in the game. As she looked up at the scoreboard, Roszko recalled, she was crying and raising her stick in the air. These were tears of joy.
The Manhasset girls varsity lacrosse team won the Class B state championship game on Saturday against Brighton High School of Rochester with a score of 6-4 at SUNY Cortland.
Maria Themelis, a sophomore midfielder, opened scoring for the Indians in the first half with 16:35 minutes left. Sophomore midfielder Alexandra Petras and senior attackman Shea Garcia scored goals in the last 10 minutes of the first period, giving Manhasset a 3-2 lead at halftime.
“Our greatest struggle was probably getting past the other team’s defense. They had a great backer, but with time we were able to get by them by working together and listening to our coaches,” said Roszko.
Despite the lead, Manhasset was not comfortable with a one-goal difference entering the second half.
Freshman attackman Emma LoPinto, Themelis again off an assist by freshman attackman Grace Gately, and sophomore midfielder Lauren Yun all scored in the second half, sparking Manhasset to a score of 6-2.
Brighton scored one goal four minutes later and another one in the final minute of the game, but it was not enough to combat Manhasset’s stellar defense, which forced a total of 14 turnovers. Senior goalie Krissy Kowalski served as the backbone of the defense with seven saves.
“Our goalie, Krissy, held up a wall and played amazing, which definitely helped us win” said Roszko. “Also, our defense contributed so much by communicating and constantly sliding on a string.”
The last time Manhasset won the state championship was 2014. Kowalski, who will play at the University of Pennsylvania next fall, said that this win was something she had only dreamed about. “I’m happy to bring this back to Manhasset. It definitely feels special to be a part of this,” she said.
Kowalski won the Most Valuable Player award of the game. Senior midfielder Katie Bellucci received the sportsmanship award. The players who were recognized on the all-tournament team were Kowalski, Garcia, Olivia Dooley and Caroline Mondiello.
Before the final game, Manhasset Coach Danielle Gallagher said, she encouraged her players to play the way they have the entire season. “Just do what we’ve done all season; to play as a team from the sidelines to our goalie, to the defense to the attackmen, the support system of all of these components will be critical in the big game” she told her players.
“Going into the final game, I was very confident that the coaches had prepared us for this game, but I was unsure of what to expect because we never faced this team before,” said Dooley, a junior defenseman. “At the end of the game when the buzzer rang, there was pure excitement and joy throughout our team. This was a dream come true.”
Roszko credits the victory to the team’s chemistry and good communication. “When that final buzzer rang, we all started crying tears of complete joy and there were just so many emotions going through our heads,” said Roszko. “It honestly didn’t feel real.”
Throughout the season, the Manhasset girls team emphasized the team philosophy. According to Gallagher, the goal was to just continue playing as one. “Their slogan for the year was ‘one,’ meaning one team, one dream and that we function as one unit,” she said. “We did function as one. There wasn’t anyone who was out to function for themselves or to reach their own goals. It was all about the team.”
Coincidentally, said Gallagher, the team received shirts the day before the playoffs that said “number one” on them, referring to their number No. 1 ranking in the United States, according to the Nike/US Lacrosse High School Girls’ National Top 25. This fact solidified the team’s slogan.
Despite losing valuable seniors, Gallagher said that she remains optimistic about her team. The majority of scorers in the championship game were underclassmen. “Personally, I do believe that this team can go back to the state finals next year,” she commented.
“This team was incredible to coach,” said Gallagher. “Some girls were crying after the game and I asked, ‘Why are you crying?’ and they said, ‘Because I’m not gonna see my teammates because we’re not gonna have practice tomorrow.’ Their slogan and the whole team is just the epitome of what you want. It’s a coach’s dream.”