BUFFALO - The passes and goals were coming so fast that even the team's coach couldn't keep track of who was doing all the scoring.
The Long Island scholastic women's lacrosse team burst to a 9-0 lead and cruised to a 17-7 victory over Western New York Sunday at Niagara University to win the Empire State Games gold medal. The opening flurry was led by rising sophomore Cortney Fortunato (six goals, three assists) and rising senior Shannon Gilroy (five goals, two assists). Both play for Northport High School, and their coach, Carol Rose, also is the Empire State Games coach.
"I had no idea my kids had 11 goals," Rose said. "I didn't care who scored; I just wanted to win. It was unbelievable to watch. These kids were flawless. What a feeling!"
And what a week it was for Fortunato. She scored six goals for a third straight game here and was coming off an impressive performance last weekend in Orlando, where she led the Long Island Yellow Jackets to the U.S. Under-15 national championship. Rose also coached that team.
"She's amazing," Rose said. "If they took a vote, she would've been MVP of the Under-15 tournament. And she was the leading scorer for the [Long Island scholastic] team. Pretty impressive for being the youngest player on the team."
Gilroy, one of the veterans, has been hampered all summer by an ankle injury, but she saved her best for the gold-medal game. "She really didn't play much all summer, but she came up big today," Rose said of the first-team Newsday All-Long Island player.
Gilroy's teammates came up big all week. In a truly overpowering performance, Long Island went 5-0 and outscored its opponents 80-23.
"One of the most dominant lacrosse teams ever at the Empire State Games," said Rose, who noted that 16 of the team's 20 girls on the roster will play Division I college lacrosse.
Fortunato, a second-team Newsday All-Long Island choice, is among the uncommitted quartet, but that's a temporary situation. She already is on the major college recruiting radar screen. "And I'm stuck with her for three more years," Rose joked.