Being a strong second-half team isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though such practices can give a head coach heart palpitations.
Just ask Eastport South Manor girls lacrosse head coach Becky Thorn.
After leading by a single goal after one half of play on May 29, the Lady Sharks ramped up their game in the second half—which has been their pattern—to defeat Sayville 10-6 and claim their second consecutive Suffolk County Class B championship crown at the Dowling Sports Complex in Shirley. ESM lost 11-7 to Manhasset in the Long Island Championship on Sunday at Adelphi University. (See separate story).
After the victory, Thorn still could not explain what motivates her team in the second half of games—though she did not sound very upset with her players.
“I don’t know what it is,” she said. “I don’t know if they come out with a little nervousness, or if they want to test the waters and then, [in the] second half, they know how to handle their attack.
“In my three years here, we’ve always been a second-half team, and I think it’s because they always try and test the waters and then try and explode,” she continued.
The Lady Sharks opened the scoring when junior Jackie Wasilko netted a free-position goal. Sayville then responded by scoring three consecutive goals to take a 3-1 lead. Junior Kristen Anderson responded for the Lady Sharks by scoring two goals to tie the contest before Dakota Mason, another junior, put the Lady Sharks up 4-3 in the first half.
Anderson then scored her third goal of the first half, off an assist from senior captain Marissa Gurello, to put the Lady Sharks up by two goals until Sayville sophomore Kaitlyn Wandeldt ended ESM’s scoring run with a goal at 2:25 to cut the lead to 5-4 at halftime. It was her third goal of the game.
The Lady Sharks, as they have done all season, dominated play in the second half to secure the win. They built up an 8-4 lead which prompted Sayville to pull its goalie for an extra player with just over five minutes remaining in the game. ESM took advantage, scoring two empty-net goals. Sayville didn’t score its first second-half goal until the 2:23 mark.
Anderson finished with four goals—she now has seven between the county semifinals and finals—and also won six draws. Marissa Gurello scored a hat trick and sophomore goalie Samantha Giacolone made nine saves.
Wandeldt finished with four goals for Sayville.
Thorn said it is all about confidence with Anderson, and her confidence seems to be at an all-time high based on her play over the past few games.
“We worked really hard,” Anderson said after the game. “Our coaches are amazing. They pushed me so much and they made me who I am today.”
Giacolone came up with a number of key saves, especially the one on a free-position shot that could have made it a three-goal game in the final minutes of regulation.
“It’s awesome,” she said of winning back-to-back county championships. “I love this team. We came together as a team, we overcame things that we needed to work on throughout the season. It’s just a great feeling.”
Gurello, who is one of just two seniors on the Lady Sharks, was happy she could contribute in what could have been her last high school game. She also repeated the team’s mantra, that all of the players have each other’s back.
“We all work together,” she said. “We always say we need to have one heartbeat, so that’s what we did. We all knew what it felt like to win last year and we wanted everyone who wasn’t on the team last year to be with us to feel it again.”