Brace yourselves for this…
Garden City won.
OK, that’s not a surprise. But atypical was the Trojans needing a late goal from Alexandra Bruno to edge Sayville, 2-1, yesterday and secure a seventh consecutive Long Island Class B field hockey title.
Sayville played what its coach, Patti Fedelem, called “our best game of the season” while coping with a recent tragedy. The team was informed Friday that James Donnelly, the brother of Golden Flashes captain Caitlin Donnelly, died suddenly that afternoon, Fedelem said. He was 19.
“We got together [Friday] night and talked a lot; cried a lot,” Fedelem said. “We wanted this for Caitlin and her family.”
Sayville players had “JD” and “14,” Donnelly’s jersey number, written in black marker on their legs.
“I know some of the girls on that team and I feel for them,” Trojans midfielder Tara Mahon said. “The way they played, under the circumstances, was amazing.”
Added Garden City coach Diane Chapman: “They showed a lot of class and dignity, and they played better than anyone could’ve expected, dealing with what they were.”
Bruno took a pass from Gabrielle Giannone about 15 yards out and fired into the left corner with 3:09 left, sending Garden City (16-0-1) to Saturday’s state semifinals at Cicero-North Syracuse.
“I was just like, ‘Thank you. You’re my hero,’” Mahon said of Bruno scoring the winner. “We always know she’s there and we can count on her.”
Mahon, too, has been one of the Trojans’ stalwarts and was named to the all-tournament team. The senior’s impact isn’t often reflected in box scores, but she does her best work wreaking havoc in the midfield defensively and facilitating on offense. She helped stifle the Golden Flashes high-powered attack yesterday.
Charlotte Castronovo’s goal gave Garden City a lead 9:19 in, but Sayville’s Taylor Mills scored off a feed from Zoe Norton 14:46 before halftime.
“It was such a tough game,” said Bruno, who also had an assist. “We had opportunities but we got jammed in the goal so many times… It was a relief when [my] goal went in.”
There were four defensive saves, in addition to Gianna Minogue’s 13 stops for Sayville (19-1). Laura Fanning made nine saves for the Trojans.
Garden City had a mild scare with four seconds left when Olivia Cabral’s pass upfield from the 40 went in the goal. The rules say that a ball must be touched from within the scoring circle before it can count as a goal, and the ball hadn’t made contact with anything until hitting the back wall of the cage. Fanning could've kicked the ball away, but Chapman said her goalies are instructed to back away in such situations, as to not give the offense any opportunity for a rebound or deflection.
As for winning another championship: "This one is the most special," Bruno said. Garden City had won its 17th consecutive county championship last week. "As you get older, it gets more exciting knowing that we’ve got an even higher standard to uphold and we have to keep up the tradition."
The Golden Flashes, emotional afterwards, said they planned to visit Donnelly last night.
“We’re a family,” Cabral said. “When something tragic happens, we connect more and it makes us stronger…Losing the game stinks, but I’m proud of everyone – on and off the field. We played our hearts out.”