Our Lady of Mercy girls lacrosse team enjoying successful turnaround
It's only a sweatshirt, a gray pullover with blue lettering that simply reads: "Our Lady of Mercy Academy Lacrosse."
But it says a lot.
"People used to think it was a joke," sophomore Cate Soccodato said. "But now when they see it, they say, 'Oh, you're on the team?' I'm proud to wear it."
Proud, more so, to be part of a successful squad. Last season, Our Lady of Mercy didn't get its first win until May 4 . . . and it was the only one. The year before wasn't much better. But fast-forward and this group is 8-3 now, and riding a seven-game win streak.
Yes, the Mustangs -- gasp! -- are good. You know a turnaround is stunning when it surprises even the team.
" kept telling me all year that we're gonna have a good season, but it was hard to believe that," midfielder Samantha Lynch said. "He was right."
Geagan, in his first season, and co-coach Lauren Aksionoff, first set out to build team chemistry and "make practices fun." The first step, actually, was getting a sound system. But country music booming during practice, alone, doesn't account for the victories.
There also was the implementation of a new system, and the emergence of sophomore stars Lynch, Soccodato and Victoria Courtney.
A free-flowing motion offense has helped the Mustangs average 15 goals a game, and Lynch (54 goals) and Soccodato (61 points) are among Long Island's top scorers. Courtney (43 points) controls the crease.
Geagan also switched the Mustangs' defense to a "backer" -- a shifting zone scheme adopted from his days as defensive coordinator for the Adelphi women's team. Led by Meghan Echausse, Christina Johnson and goalie Grace Morales, OLMA has held five opponents to five goals or less.
"Making all those adjustments was definitely challenging," Geagan said, "but once they got on the field and saw the results, it started coming together."
Even their three losses -- each outside their division -- were encouraging, the players said. They fell to Syosset, Kellenberg and St. John the Baptist by a combined five goals. "Last year we got killed by those teams," Lynch said. "This time, we were forcing turnovers and staying with them. That's exciting to us."
The Mustangs' dominating wins over St. Dominic and Mary Louis Academy, last year's CHSAA Class A league finalists, essentially served notice. But this team hasn't arrived, they insisted. The goal is to become a Class AA contender, and compete with the league's powerhouses (St. Anthony's, Sacred Heart, et al).
"I know we'll keep improving," Courtney said. "Even if we move up to the next division next year, we have confidence now to believe we'll be in every game."