The Eastport South Manor girls lacrosse team, looking for its third consecutive Suffolk County Class B Championship, fell short in a 5-3 loss to Sayville at Dowling College in Shirley on Thursday, May 29.
Top-seeded ESM had defeated Sayville, the third seed, earlier this season in a come-from-behind overtime effort during the regular season. But the Lady Golden Flashes, namely their defense, was up for the task on Thursday, and ESM’s offense lacked a spark it usually has. The three goals the Lady Sharks scored, which were all netted by Kaeli Huff, were a season low.
ESM head coach Becky Thorn thought her team was mentally drained from what had already been a long season leading up to the county title game. Thorn said she noticed that ever since her team’s loss at Mount Sinai back on May 1, when Huff went down with an injury, her team lacked a certain punch that it had earlier in the season.
Following that loss to Mount Sinai, ESM had close victories over Westhampton Beach and Bayport/Blue Point, and eventually lost its regular-season finale at Huntington. The Lady Sharks got back on track albeit with another close victory over Westhampton Beach in the first round of the playoffs, a game in which Huff came back early from her injury to lead ESM to a win in the second half.
ESM lost one of its top players in Dakota Mason before the season even started due to an injury—and the injuries didn’t stop there. Natalie Fuccillo tore her ACL for the second time in her young career midway through the season, and other players, such as Laura Kesnig and Ally Tolken, missed time at different points of the spring.
“It was injury after injury, and it was almost like, what else could we handle?” Thorn said.
Last week, both ESM and Sayville failed to register a goal until 16:08 in the first half, when Huff put the Lady Sharks on the board. Sayville scored the final three goals of the half, though, all by Kaitlyn Wandelt, who put one in as time expired to give her team a 3-1 lead at halftime.
The Lady Golden Flashes then put themselves ahead by three goals quickly in the second half when Kelly Marra got through two ESM defenders and, as she was going down to the ground, slipped the ball past goalie Samantha Giacolone. Huff scored consecutive goals in the middle of the half to make it a one-goal game and forcing Sayville to call a time-out.
ESM and Sayville both hunkered down over the next 10 minutes of the game, but Wandelt was able to sneak one past Giacolone to make it a 5-3 game with 4:58 remaining. ESM’s Jackie Wasilko had a free-possession shot that was saved by Sayville goalie Molly Andrews with just over three minutes remaining. Then Andrews saved another shot by Kesley Huff with 30 seconds to go.
“I don’t think [Sayville’s] goalie made a good save the whole game,” Thorn said, commenting on the quality of her team’s scoring opportunities. “The ball either went off her mask, hit the post or went off her stick. I don’t think we shot the ball all that well.
“Overall, the girls were just flat,” she added. “The defense came out strong, but the attack, they were just stationary. No one was talking—there was no leader out there.”
ESM will now have to graduate another cluster of girls who were responsible for two county championships. For the first time in program history, every senior who is leaving the program will be playing in college. That list includes Mason (UMass), Wasilko (Virginia), Vanessa Amendola (Holy Cross), Kristin Anderson (Mercyhurst), Megan Curley (Jacksonville), Kaitlyn Moran (Kennesaw State) and Rebecca Tooker (James Madison), who was a two-time All-American.
“We talked the next day about the disappointment the team had, and I told the girls, the seniors and the girls coming back, to take it as a learning experience,” Thorn said. “They never want to have to walk off the field and feel like that again.
“For the underclassmen, I think it may be a blessing in disguise, being that we’re so young offensively,” she added.