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Camaraderie helps Adelphi win 2nd straight national title

From left, Adelphi women's lacrosse national champions Lauren

From left, Adelphi women's lacrosse national champions Lauren Janelli, Felicia Mills and Alexa Froccaro pose with the trophy at their home field on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The strong sense of unity that helped Adelphi march to the NCAA Division II women's lacrosse championship started off as anything but that.

Seniors Lauren Janelli and Alexa Froccaro say they "hated" each other when the former high school opponents first arrived at Adelphi.

Janelli and Froccaro, four-year varsity players at North Shore and Port Washington high schools, respectively, both played midfield, and it was Janelli's responsibility to keep Froccaro off the scoreboard.

This wasn't easy. Froccaro was named All-County four times and All-Long Island twice. But Janelli, a three-time All-County player, was up for the challenge. With the two responsible for marking each other during combined high school practices, tensions mounted.

Now, four years later, the two not only are two-time national champions but roommates.

Adelphi won its seventh Division II national championship since 2004 and second consecutive title with a 5-4 overtime victory over Lock Haven on May 17.

Now they are champions and friends. But it wasn't always that way. When Janelli saw Froccaro in high school, her thoughts were: This girl again? She's so fast! Froccaro thought: Lauren Janelli? Oh, no!

The two wouldn't talk during those combined high school practices. Their first interaction at Adelphi in 2012 was similar. Sitting at opposite sides of a table separated by the 2011 Division II national championship trophy, the two just stared at each other "stone-faced, like nothing," Froccaro said.

When their coach that year, Robert Grella, asked them if they'd like to room together, the answer was an emphatic no.

The "hatred" was out of mutual respect. Froccaro -- now Adelphi's No. 4 all-time scorer with 219 goals -- said she actually was happy that Janelli was there because that meant there was talent in the room. And the experience Janelli had against Froccaro may have been a major reason why the Panthers defended their title.

The night before the championship game, first-year coach Pat McCabe told Janelli she'd be guarding Jessica Pandolf -- the nation's leading Division II scorer in 2015 with 82 goals. Janelli admitted she was nervous. Said Janelli, "I just stayed on her like, she's not going to beat me. I kept telling myself that."

McCabe said Janelli "didn't give her an inch." The result: a one-shot, zero-goal performance by one of the most dangerous players in the country.

The Panthers' winning overtime goal came from an unlikely source: senior Felicia Mills. Her role on the team usually was to get the offense started by winning draws, not finishing the plays. Mills led the nation with 134 draw controls this season and her 377 career controls shattered Jacqueline Williams' school record of 219 set in 2014.

Four days after taking the title, Mills still was struggling to describe the feeling of scoring the winning goal in the title game, saying, "I still can't even believe that it actually happened."

Adelphi went 43-1 in its last two seasons. The Panthers point to that one loss to New Haven on April 22 as a major reason for the second championship.

McCabe said he "wasn't thrilled" with the team's practice after the loss. He believed the team still was moping. The seniors took it upon themselves to change this.

"It made us realize we are beatable and we need to step up," Janelli said. The Panthers never lost again.

Members of the senior class avenged their two playoff losses to LIU Post in their first two years at Adelphi, recording a Final Four win over Post in 2014.

"You don't realize how big of a deal it is until it actually happens -- until you actually win -- and to do that two years in a row is just amazing," Janelli said. "I couldn't have asked for a better way to end it."

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