Small roster, tougher competition hasn't limited North Shore

North Shore's Carlee Janelli heads downfield during the

North Shore's Carlee Janelli heads downfield during the second half of a Nassau County varsity girls lacrosse Class A first round playoff game on May 15, 2014. (Credit: James Escher)

Carly Comitino insists she's OK and will play on Wednesday.

And the North Shore girls lacrosse team collectively says: "Phew!"

Because few scenes could have been more unnerving to them than seeing the senior crash to the turf in a collision and be helped off the field in Thursday's playoff game. That's not only because Comitino is the Vikings' star player, but the team doesn't have many players, period.

North Shore has gone through most of this season with only 15 on its active roster. Depth has been so sparse that coaches Jeff Butt and Megan McCormack participated in practices so there would be enough "players" to complete drills.

Add to that the school's enrollment boost moved the team up to Nassau Class B, denying them a chance at a fourth straight county "C" title.

Woe is them, huh? Wrong.

Carlee Janelli and Kelly Johansen each scored four goals as the fourth-seeded Vikings beat South Side, 13-7, on Thursday, earning a trip to the Class B semifinals.

"We've turned a weakness into a strength," Comitino said. "We don't have depth, so practices are more intense and there's no wasted time."

North Shore (12-5) wasted no time proving that quality can trump quantity. Despite the graduation of their leading scorer and starting goalie, the Vikings are three wins better than last season and went 6-3 in a grueling Nassau Conference I.

“We’ve come up with big wins,” Johansen said. “It’s proof that when we work together, even as a small team, we can do big things.”

Comitino, Janelli and Meaghan Brennan have been the constants, but the emergence of Johansen has helped bolster the offense. Samantha Capobianco has 129 saves, and Alexandra Cantwell, Ali Biolsi and Lauren Cristodero have become stalwarts on a defense that's held 13 opponents to single digits. North Shore accomplished that feat only five times last season.

"We learned a lot from last year," Janelli said. "We made mistakes and figured out what we needed to improve and optimize."

By virtue of being in Conference I, the Vikings last season had an automatic postseason berth and a high seed (despite a 7-8 record), and went on to win the Nassau Class C title. But this year, it had to be earned. With seven of the 10 teams in their conference being in Class B, a poor regular season would have resulted in a low seed.

"That sense of urgency brought a different attitude," Butt said. "It's been a huge factor in our success.”

Proof that it’s not the (roster) size of the underdog in the fight…

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