It was the second game of the season, and someone forgot to bring the soccer balls.
With no way of warming up, Islip coach Mike Reilly made his team do a dozen full-field sprints as punishment. He said the first 11 girls to finish would start the game. The lineup was out of whack — star midfielder Mary O’Hara played goalkeeper — and the Buccaneers lost to Hauppauge, 4-0.
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“From that experience we realized that we needed to step it up,” O’Hara said. “It was the turning point. Without that, we wouldn’t have had the season we had.”
The defeat was Islip’s last of the season (the Buccaneers finished 14-2-1). The lesson learned?
“Things, including wins, don’t come easy in life,” Reilly said. “When you do all the little things right, like communicating with one another to make sure we have the soccer balls, it adds up to big things.”
It added up to the biggest prize: the first state championship in the history of the Islip girls soccer program.
“It’s amazing that for the rest of our lives,” defender Kerri McDonald said, “we are going to be the first people that brought home a state title.”
They did so with a rock solid defense — led by McDonald, Ali Bondi, Emma Baumbusch, Daniela D’Acunto, Kayla Multer and goalkeeper Cassidy Hock — that didn’t allow a goal in either state tournament game. When injury struck in the final seconds of the state semifinal, sophomore Juliana Eastwood was called upon to make her first start and exceeded expectations in the state final.
“When you work together and strive for what you want,” Hock said, “you get what you want.”
O’Hara helped Islip get exactly what it wanted with her ability to create in the midfield. She distributed to a potent attack that included Hannah Franco, Delaney Kissane, Dominique Bono, and, of course, the Sparks sisters.
Alyssa Sparks booked Islip’s first trip to Cortland after she converted the winning penalty kick against Garden City in the Long Island championship. Both games upstate were won by 1-0 margins, with Alyssa’s older sister, Lyndsey, scoring the winner in each.
“We will always share those memories,” Lyndsey said, “and we can talk about them at Thanksgiving dinner.”
When the Buccaneers returned from upstate, their bus was escorted by fire trucks to the high school, where the team was greeted by an enormous crowd.
“It’s going to be the most memorable thing that that will ever come out of high school,” O’Hara said of the state title. “We’ll be able to go into the gym, look up and see the banner and it will say 2015, and we’ll be able to say that was our year. We learned what it took to become champions.”