Garden City plays Brighton during the Class B NYSPHSAA field...

Garden City plays Brighton during the Class B NYSPHSAA field hockey semifinals at Maine-Endwell on Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. Credit: Thomas LaBarbera

Garden City hadn't made the semifinals in a long time. Yes, three years is a long time for a field hockey program that captured the Long Island Championship every year from 2005 to 2011 and won state titles in 2005, 2006 and 2008.

After Saturday's 3-1 semifinal win over Brighton, the 17-1 Trojans are one victory away from adding another state championship trophy to their collection.

Lakeland is the opponent, a familiar one. The Hornets, who have won the last five Class B titles, ousted Garden City in last year's Southeast Regional, the 2010 and 2011 finals and the 2009 semifinals.

"We knew from the first day of preseason in camp Aug. 1 our goal was to make it to the championship," Isabel McKeown said. "Winning today is such an accomplishment for the team. It's a dream come true for us."

McKeown and Morgayne Rix are the lone Trojans who had trekked upstate. They were on the 2011 team that lost to Lakeland.

This has been a novel experience for them.

"Last time, we were sitting on the bench as little freshmen rooting everyone on," McKeown said. "Now we're living the dream."

So is Margot McTiernan, a third-year varsity player but a first-year starter. Five minutes after Devon Heaney opened the scoring, McTiernan took a pass from Michaela Bruno in the eighth minute and hit the ball toward the net. Brighton's goalie made a diving attempt at the shot, but the ball bounced off her and rolled into the cage before she could recover.

"Getting to score in the state semifinals was just unreal," McTiernan said. "It's so exciting."

Garden City had four penalty corners at the half to Brighton's three, but the Barons (17-1-2) never got a clean shot at the goal and entered the break down 2-0.

"Scoring twice right away was a game-changer," McTiernan said. "We knew we were in it. We knew we could win it. We just kept going and we didn't let down."

But the Barons' offense created more opportunities after the break, and Kim Richards cut Garden City's lead in half with 12:38 left.

"We knew they were going to come out with intensity after halftime," Bruno said.

The Trojans' defense broke up every other chance, with Shannon Tierney, Annie Kane and Rix leading the way. The defense was so solid that goalie Sabrina Milone made just one save, despite Brighton's constant pressure in the second half.

With one minute left, the Barons had the ball in Garden City territory. The defense cleared it, and Bruno corralled the ball with 25 seconds left. Her shot a few yards away from the cage put on the finishing touch.

"Michaela's awesome," McKeown said. "She always saves the day like that."

Added Bruno: "As soon as the ball left my stick, it was just so calming to know we sealed the deal. It was done with 25 seconds left. We were going to the state championship."

And the Trojans are thrilled to get another shot at Lakeland at 12:30 p.m. Sunday in the championship.

"It definitely adds more intensity because it's a rivalry," Bruno said. "We're coming at them as strong as we can, and I think we have a really good chance this year."

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