Garden City’s Liana McDonnell refused to feel the pain of another one-goal loss to Lakeland. For two consecutive years McDonnell and her teammates saw their field hockey season end in Class B playoff losses to Lakeland -- 2-1 last year in regional play, and 1-0 in the 2016 state final.
But not this year. In the NYSPHSAA Class B final at Buffalo Nov. 11, the Trojans reversed the outcome against nine-time defending champion Lakeland, winning, 1-0, to claim their state championship and complete an undefeated (19-0) season.
Nursing the lead with 1:28 left in the game, Trojans senior goalkeeper Katie Mullins came up in the biggest way. Lakeland, notorious for converting penalty corners, attempted its only one of the game, but Mullins read the play and turned away a shot from the point with her right pad.
Then it was McDonnell's turn to come up big. Lakeland controlled the rebound, but McDonnell got a stick in and rescued the ball away before another shot, preserving Garden City's lead.
The senior said the team had significant confidence that Mullins would stop the initial shot.
“I made sure that it was my responsibility to get the ball out of of the circle,” McDonnell said. “So I made sure to run in there and get the ball out right away.”
Mullins echoed McDonnell’s confidence.
“Well, they called a timeout right before, so it was nervewracking, but I had to do it for my team and it was totally worth it,” Mullins said. “We practiced corners like that since August, when we first started . . . I knew it could be done -- that we could stop Lakeland and we did.”
Kylie Tierney got the only goal Garden City needed with 25:54 left in the second half, and that proved to be the difference in the team’s first state championship since 2008.
Immediately after Tierney's score, McDonnell had a message for her team.
“I told them, 'Everybody needs to take a deep breath, and they are so capable of scoring at any second. We lived this exact situation last year, I am not letting this happening again,' ” she said.
Although Mullins came up clutch late against Lakeland, the first-year starter didn’t have to make many saves during the regular season.
The Trojans allowed only seven scores all season with 13 shutouts, including the Long Island championship and the state semifinal. Coach Diane Chapman credited her backline of Sarah Killcommons, Sydney Pappas and Olivia Kaval.
The Trojans finished with 90 goals scored, compared to 57 last year. Grace Kelly led Nassau County with 26. Also key was Caitlin Cook’s quickness on the right side and Amanda Cerrato's ability to be in the right position.
“Our offensive corner unit did an incredible job as well,” Chapman said. “It was just a great team effort on the field everywhere, from offense to defense.”
On the Trojans’ bus ride home from Buffalo, the championship plaque was passed around while Queen’s “We Are The Champions” played. The three team captains -- McDonnell, Heaney and Cook -- fell asleep with it in their arms and would not let it get away.
“I look back at pictures all the time just to see the smile on all of our faces,” McDonnell said. “The tears of happiness that came down on so many people, it was honestly the greatest feeling I’ve ever had in my whole life.”
Road to the Championship
def. Locust Valley, 4-0
def. Cold Spring Harbor, 5-1
Long Island championship
def. Miller Place, 5-0
State Class B semifinals
def. Pittsford Mendon, 6-0
State Class B championship
def. Lakeland, 1-0