Mt. Sinai wins Class C state girls lacrosse title

Mount Sinai midfielder Caroline Fitzgerald holds up the Mount Sinai midfielder Caroline Fitzgerald holds up the championship plaque while surrounded by her teammates following their 15-6 victory over Skaneateles in the NYSPHSAA Class C Girls Championship game. (June 8, 2013) Photo Credit: Rich Barnes

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CORTLAND, NY -- Mount Sinai forged its first girls lacrosse championship on second chances.

Take one: Shayna Pirreca loses her cool after her goal is disallowed in the state semifinal. Benched in the final moments, she's distraught until Mount Sinai pulls out the wildest of victories. Take two: She's unflappable after the Mustangs go down in the state Class C final, and scores four to lead them to victory.

Take one: Mount Sinai (20-0) is shut out for the first eight minutes against Central New York's Skaneateles. They've lost the first four draws, and are quickly down by three. Take two: Sydney Pirreca scores on a bouncer, Caroline Fitzgerald wins the next draw, and the Mustangs take off on a 10-0 run.

Take one: In their first final four appearance, the Mustangs lose late, by one. The memory follows the young team for the next two years. Take two: State champions for the first time in school history, 15-6.

"We did not want to walk off this field again without a championship," Shayna Pirreca said. "We gave everything we had. [Friday], I crumbled under the pressure a little. I wanted to show I'm always there for them. I owed my team that game."

Down by one with 11:20 left in the first, Fitzgerald, the All-American midfielder, shimmied past two defenders, dodged a third and took it to the cage to tie it at 3. Sydney Pirreca -- the dazzle to Fitz- gerald's razzle -- scored a minute later -- faking right, cutting left and tying up her defender, ankle-breaking cross- over-style, for the lead.

"I knew we just needed one draw, one goal and the floodgates open," coach Al Bertolone said. "Sydney in the middle of the field is ridiculous. She's the fastest thing in America . . . And then there's the grinders -- Marisa Colacino, MaryEllen Carron, and Nikki O'Reilly. They started getting the 50-50 balls."

Sydney Pirreca scored four and Carron added four ground balls, three draw controls and a goal. Fitzgerald ("The mailman, she always delivers," Bertolone said) was named tournament MVP, and had three goals, six draw controls and seven ground balls.

"We've been working so hard for this -- two years," Fitzgerald said. "We really pull each other together and that's what got us going . . . There was no one person that made the difference. It was a full team effort, which is very cool."

This was the first time this year Skaneateles (19-3), averaging 15.3 goals, was held to single digits by a C team. The Mount Sinai defense hasn't allowed more than nine goals this season and that, like much else on the Mustangs, was by design, said Morgan McGrath.

"Communication was the biggest thing," McGrath said. "And Coach Bert would just tell us to keep it under 10 and somehow, that motivated us, really."

Added Colacino, who had two big forced turnovers early: "We made sure our slides were faster when we played the zone [and] we knew we had to get the jitters out so we could put out the performance we usually put out."

Mount Sinai did that and then some, leading by as many as 10. For a team full of "lax rats," the achievement was staggering, Bertolone said. "There's a core group here that would die to win a championship," he said.

The hoots, hollers and post-game dances expressed as much. But so did a half-dazed Sydney Pirreca, beaming, with her trademark warpaint (one fully blackened eye, eyebrow to cheek) smudged from sweat and tears.

"You remember from two years ago and that feeling never, ever goes away," she said. "It doesn't make up for it, but it fills the spot of that terrible feeling."

Her big sister -- the alleged quieter one -- pipes up loud and clear. "We wanted that second chance."

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