Garden City chased its fifth state championship in boys lacrosse for 12 years. For a program as storied and as prestigious as GC it seemed like a lifetime. So many chances with so many great squads came up short.
Garden City won its seventh straight Nassau County Class B crown, third straight Long Island Championship and returned to the state finals for the third straight year, but without No. 5 it would all be for naught, great accomplishments followed by yet another great disappointment.
With a Pavlovian yearning for state title No. 5 the Trojans had to cope with the distraction of No. 1 -- their national ranking in every major high school lacrosse poll.
Ever since defeating then top-ranked Conestoga (Pa.) 12-11 on April 14, Garden City had earned the label of No. 1 team in the country and the accolades and attention were ratcheted up a notch on the two-time state runners-up.
Under the leadership of sixth-year coach Steve Finnell, seniors Devin Dwyer, Liam Kennedy, Patric Berkery, Dan Marino and 14 others kept the Trojans on track and on task. They navigated through the county playoffs with ease, deciphered Sayville's zone defense in the LIC, cruised past rival Yorktown in the state semis and kept composed in a close state final with Irondequoit, capitalizing on an opportunity to blow the game open as they won 11-4 to capture elusive state championship No. 5.
"It was devastating last year to lose in the state championship (8-7 to Jamesville-DeWitt) in overtime," Finnell said. "For that senior group that had done so much for us and was such an accomplished group, I don't think this group of seniors would have been as focused and determined if they had not dealt with that disappointment. Sometimes a loss can encourage you and inspire you and I think that's exactly what it did."
Dwyer was an unstoppable force all season for the Trojans. The Harvard-bound attack quarterbacked the top scoring offense in the county and No. 2 on LI, notching 39 goals and tying for an Island-best 75 assists for an Island-leading 114 points to lead the Trojans to a perfect 22-0 season.
"There's really no words for it, it's just the most unbelievable feeling in the world," Dwyer said after winning the state championship. "I love every guy on this team and to go undefeated and win that state championship it's the greatest feeling in the world."
What made this squad different and capable of finally winning the state title was its balance. Even the unheralded defense, at times overlooked due to the highly-touted offense, held opponents to a county-best 4.77 goals and allowed just 11 goals in its last four games.
"It is the most complete squad there's no question about that," Finnell said.
After 12 years of waiting to add to the trophy case on Rockaway Avenue Garden City captured state title No. 5 and the debate now is about No. 1 and the on-paper title of national champion.