During the first practice two years ago, after Glenn Lavey took over the Herricks lacrosse team, he assured the girls that they would make the playoffs. And they all laughed at him.
This group was deficient in depth, skill and experience, and one playoff appearance in program history had them a little short on optimism.
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"We thought he was joking at first," senior Sabrina Telmo said. The Highlanders had won a combined seven games in the previous two seasons, so the skepticism was understandable. "It's nice to be optimistic, but making the playoffs didn't seem too realistic."
Except it happened.
Herricks sneaked into the Nassau Class B playoffs as a 15th seed last year before being bumped in the first round. But the seeds of success had been planted.
This season the Highlanders have blossomed into -- dare we say -- a pretty good team, having concluded a 14-1 regular season in Conference III to earn another playoff berth.
The Highlanders will face Wantagh in the first round tomorrow. A tall order, certainly, against a team ranked 49th in the country. But Herricks' 14 wins are already a program record.
"We're not a lacrosse-rich school," said Lavey, Herricks' longtime girls basketball coach. "I'm an optimistic guy, but I wouldn't have expected this. And the way we did it meant even more than the record."
Of the 18 players on the roster, 14 play for the basketball team, which is among Nassau's elite. And what the lacrosse team lacks in skill is made up for with "grit" Lavey said. They use a full-field press, thrive off turnovers and score in transition.
"We ride teams all over the field and we're constantly trying to make a play on the ball," Telmo said of a style that has helped Herricks average 15.4 goals per game.
Midfielder Alison Ricchiuti has transferred her basketball point guard skills to the lacrosse field and leads the Highlanders with 73 points, including 32 assists. Lauren Bascelli (64 points) and Telmo (54) are the primary scorers on attack, along with Claire Lanzo and Barbara Nictas.
Midfielders Victoria Morano and Bridgette Stacom stabilize the midfield and snag ground balls, and seniors Liz Lobaccaro and Kelly Wieczorek anchor the defense. Kristina Stacom has made 108 saves.
"Another thing we've carried over from basketball is pride," Telmo said. "We used to be bad at this sport, but we want to change that and establish something. We want to let everyone know that we're going to be better than we are."