This isn't a Cinderella story.
Yes, it's Wantagh's first Nassau girls lacrosse championship. Yes, the road to the title ran through two lacrosse powerhouses in Garden City and Manhasset. But the Warriors don't think of themselves as underdogs. Not anymore.
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"You can't look at the names on the jerseys. You have to go out and play like you're playing any other team," said midfielder Courtney Gendels, who scored three goals. "You can't just look at the team and go, 'Oh, it's Manhasset,' and be intimidated. And we weren't. We knew we could beat them."DataGirls lacrosse champions
Undaunted by their opponent or the circumstances, the third-seeded Warriors never trailed in their 9-6 win over back-to-back state champs and previously undefeated Manhasset (18-1) in the Nassau B final at Adelphi Wednesday. Their success started and ended with Grace Beshlian.
The junior goalie had 16 saves, each one seemingly more impressive than the previous. With 20 minutes remaining and Wantagh leading 9-5, Beshlian made two saves in rapid succession, flaunting her lighting-fast reflexes. In the game's final moments, she went down on one knee for a save before the buzzer sounded and she was swarmed by her teammates.
"I had faith in the defense," Beshlian said, "and knew I was going to be able to finish the job they started."
Wantagh (17-2) will play Eastport-South Manor in the Long Island Class C final at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Adelphi.
"I'm never really surprised with Grace," senior defender Shea Weber said. "She's a phenomenal goalie. I mean this was an especially incredible performance, but you always kind of expect it from her."
In the game's final moments, with the outcome already determined, Kathryn Hallett stormed toward the cage, one-on-one with Beshlian, who went down on one knee for a save.
"It basically summed up how she played the entire game, that she could make a save on a fast break like that," coach Jaclyn Coyne said. "That was the tone of the entire game. And when she's on, everyone's on."
When the final buzzer sounded, Beshlian was swarmed by her teammates and was soon at the bottom of a pile of Warriors.
"The celebration came much faster than I expected. Usually the attack holds the ball on the far end," Beshlian said. "In the Garden City game, it took them a while to come and jump on me. But this time was just, 'Wow! They're on top of me already!' It was a great feeling to have the ball in my stick at the end."
Wantagh got on the board first on a goal by junior Kaitlyn Cerasi before Ronbeck tied the score at 1 with 19:20 left in first half. Junior Madison Conway and sophomore Taylor Carson each scored to help the Warriors build a 3-1 lead.
After Manhasset got to within 5-4, Gendels' three straight scores to close the first half gave Wantagh a four-goal cushion.
"My coaches have been stressing double-cuts since the beginning of the season," Gendels said. "I just followed through and it worked."
Junior Nikki Sliwak and sophomore Megan Gordon each added a goal for the Warriors. Ronbeck had a hat trick for the Indians.
"Our team has set a precedent," Weber said, "not just for winning but for working hard and never backing down."