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Cold Spring Harbor makes the final... read all about it

Courtney Burke leaps into Victoria Kotowski's arms after

Courtney Burke leaps into Victoria Kotowski's arms after CSH beat Manhasset on Sept. 19 Credit: James Escher

Anticipation builds over the years, and with it comes angst. Questions like, “When will it happen?” or “Can it happen?” get raised, if even quietly, and they become more valid each season.

So, Cold Spring Harbor overcoming Manhasset, 1-0, last night to finally reach the Nassau Class B final, in coach Danielle Skakandi’s words: “It’s something I’ve been waiting for. They’ve been waiting for. Our alumni that took on Manhasset years back, they’ve been waiting for this.”

The Seahawks couldn’t wait another second – literally. They were rewarded a penalty corner with no time remaining but forwent it, instead rushing the field for a (premature) celebration. The referees initially tried (in vain) to clear the field and have Cold Spring Harbor run what would’ve essentially been field hockey’s version of a quarterback kneel to end the game, but, yeah, no. For CSH, formality gave way to felicity.

After all, for the players, the waning minutes of the game seemed like an epoch + four hours. “I literally thought the clock stopped,” Seahawks goalie Taylor Striar said. “I thought the last two minutes were never gonna end.”

And it was a frantic, frenetic final few minutes. But let’s first go way back to the goal...

Courtney Burke scored off an assist from Victoria Kotowski with 57 seconds left in the first half. Kotowski drove up field and fired a ball headed for the goalie, but Burke, at the last second, redirected it into the left corner.

“Sick,” “overwhelming,” and “absolutely amazing” were the adjectives Burke used to describe the biggest goal of her career. “I was just praying to God it would go in.”

Cold Spring Harbor will face top-seeded Garden City in the final at 2 p.m. Sunday at Adelphi University.

The seeding says this wasn’t an upset. Cold Spring Harbor (12-2-1) was the No. 2 and Manhasset was third. As well, the Seahawks had edged them twice (both one-goal games) in the regular season. But against a team that had ended its season a few times en route to 12 of the last 14 county finals, Cold Spring Harbor was history’s underdog.

“It’s awesome,” said Kotowski, who has been on varsity since eighth grade. “I’ve seen this team improve each year, but then senior year to finally go a step farther… Next year they’ll have even larger goals.”

Burke’s score infused more confidence, but protecting a slim lead against a Manhasset team that scored nine in its semifinal win wasn’t easy.

The Indians (11-5) controlled the action for a chunk of the second half and pressured Cold Spring Harbor. Skakandi said the cold conditions and limited substitutions took a toll, “but we knew we’d find a way. That’s what good teams do come playoff time – find a way to win.”

The Seahawks defense withstood Manhasset’s charge, Striar made crucial saves (five total), and they cleared three late penalty corners. “It’s a lot of pressure,” Burke said, “but you realize what you have to do. You focus and get it done.” They also played keep-away with long passes, forcing the Indians on time-consuming chases.

“It was 97 percent nerves and three percent ‘I know we can do this,’” Striar admitted. “But I trusted that the defense knew what they were doing.”

So the celebration afterwards: “We deserved it,” Kotowski said. “We worked hard, coach had us completely prepared, and we brought it.”

Photo note: No, that wasn't from Wednesday night. This picture was taken on Sept. 19, when Cold Spring Harbor beat Manhasset 3-2 in overtime. But it's Burke leaping into Kotowski's arms. The same duo combined for the goal in the semifinals win against the same team. So, hey, the pic fits.

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