If cowboy Westerns have taught us anything, it's that in any showdown, it pays to be quick on the draw.
The setting was Manhasset High School -- no corral, but the concept is still very much applicable to lacrosse.
"The draw is huge," Indians midfielder Maddy Molinari said. "Possession of the ball is everything."
Was it ever. Molinari dominated the draw control, helping earn Manhasset an extra 18 possessions, and the Indians cruised in a 17-10 win over Farmingdale in Conference I.
In a preseason coaches' poll, the Dalers were tabbed Nassau's No. 1 seed and Manhasset second, and the teams entered with identical records. So this, most certainly, was a late-season showdown. Another key to winning those, of course, is accurate shooting.
Natalie Stefan had four goals and an assist, and Kellen D'Alleva and Lindsey Ronbeck each had three goals for Manhasset (8-1). Molinari also scored twice.
Sarah Phillips' goal -- a putback of a free-position shot that was deflected -- gave the Indians a 2-1 lead 5:06 in and they didn't relinquish it.
D'Alleva scored twice in the first half, helping stake Manhasset to a 9-4 lead.
"When we win a draw or get defensive stops, it's great to finish it off with a good shot," said D'Alleva, a sophomore attack recently inserted into the starting lineup. "This was one of those games where everything was going."
While she cashed in on offense, her sister, Jackie, helmed a smothering defense. Manhasset countered the Dalers' speed by switching from its usual man defense to a one-backer zone scheme.
"They have some girls who are great one-on-one, so we wanted to be able to collapse on them," said junior Jackie D'Alleva, who had three ground balls. "We adjusted and it worked well."
Julia Glynn forced two turnovers, Emily Koufakis had three ground balls and Erin Coleman and Kelsey Quackenbush each made three saves.
Amanda Turturro (three goals) scored twice in 11 seconds to pull Farmingdale within 9-6 early in the second half, but Stefan and Ronbeck answered immediately. Ronbeck put the Indians up, 17-8, scoring on a low liner from 4 yards off a pass from Sarah Barcia with 6:26 remaining.
Nadine Hadnagy, Tara Wahl and Emily Marlow each scored twice, and Olivia Kirk made 15 saves for Farmingdale (7-2). The Dalers made no excuses, but their previous two games went to double and triple overtime, so fatigue was perhaps a factor.
And Molinari definitely was. At 5-4, she put her basketball skills to use, consistently boxing out girls several inches taller to snag the draw.
"Once you have the ball," she said, "the game is in your hands and you can control it."
Draw control indeed.