CORTLAND, N.Y. -- West Islip's girls lacrosse team entered this season with one motivation that it didn't have during its run to the state title game last season: the feeling of losing a state title game.
The Lions walked off Cortland's Red Field last year distraught after their five-goal loss to West Genesee. They entered Saturday's state Class A championship game against Suffern remembering that feeling of despair and using it as fuel.
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The Lions fell behind with 10:43 to play, but when Lena Riportella's goal put them ahead with 2:07 left, when Suffern's last-second shot sailed wide and especially when the final buzzer sounded in West Islip's 10-9 win -- signaling the program's first state title -- the Lions replaced that feeling with a new one.
"That final buzzer, when we won," senior defender Kaitlyn Viviano said, "it was the best feeling of my life."
Said junior Vanessa Costantino: "That loss last year motivated us every single day in practice. Every single day, that's all we talked about.
"We laid our hearts on this field."
Suffern took a 4-2 lead with 14:10 left in the first half before West Islip (19-3) scored five straight goals -- two by Alyssa Gillespie and one each by Chelsea Sorahan, Emily Piciullo and Costantino -- to take a 7-4 halftime lead.
But Suffern (17-6) answered with a three-goal run of its own to open the second half. Piciullo's go-ahead score with 13:41 left was matched by Regina Sharp's goal for Suffern, and Dana Gisonno's score put the Mounties ahead 9-8 with 10:43 to play.
The motto that's been pushing the Lions all season crept back into their minds: Finish the fight. "I was thinking about it the whole time this game and last game," Piciullo said.
Sorahan scored with 8:09 left to tie it at 9-9. The teams played four scoreless minutes before timeout was called. Two more scoreless minutes followed.
Then, after scoring four times in West Islip's semifinal victory, Riportella picked a clutch moment to score her first goal of the championship game: with 2:07 left in a tie game.
"Made a move, got open and just ripped the ball,'' Riportella said. "Just gave it my all.''
Suffern got possession with 50 seconds left trailing by one and took a timeout.
"Defensively, you have to do anything you can to make a stop," Viviano said. "Diving, sprinting for a ground ball, just anything for a stop."
Suffern earned a free position attempt with one second left, but the shot flew over the right side of the cage.
"We remembered last year. We were on the other side of this," coach Joe Nicolosi said. "I think our motivation was exactly the slogan that they came up with."
Finish the fight.