When a team proves, so clearly, to be a cut above its contemporaries, it's only natural the "Who would win?" arguments soon follow.
Here, we pit Sachem East against history. What if these Flaming Arrows took on the 1986 Centereach team? That fearsome squad, headlined by Dana Fuchs, was the last Suffolk field hockey team to win consecutive state titles -- before Sachem East did it this season.
"It's close, but I'll take Centereach, 3-2, in penalty strokes," said former Centereach coach Nancy Cole, whose 578 wins are most in state history. The difference in this make-believe game, she said, would be star forward Tina Moon. "She'd be playing for me instead of coaching them, and she'd win it with a stroke into the lower left corner."
Moon admitted that, as proudly as she trumpets her old team, "it would be a 2-2 tie." Her Sachem East team, she said, "is that good."
For the record, the Flaming Arrows believe they would win this showdown. Can you blame them?
In reality, though, Sachem East's greatest matchup this year was itself -- battling complacency, striving to somehow raise the bar it set last season, coping with the pressure of expectations that come with greatness.
How could this team possibly outdo its 2011 squad, which went 21-1, captured the program's first county title, and earned the state Class A championship with dramatic victories in penalty strokes?
Umm . . . Go 22-0, never trail in a game and breeze through upstate opponents while making it look as routine as warmups in winning a second state title. That's all.
Check. Check. Check.
The accolades and awards will continue to be heaped upon All-American Katie Trombetta, and she deserves them all. But look more closely. Beyond that star is a constellation.
Kayla McKeveny worked feverishly last offseason to improve. The result was a breakout, 26-point senior campaign. She, along with freshman phenom Cara Trombetta (27 points) formed the most potent forward duo on Long Island. And still, in the state semifinal, with Sachem East's offense meandering in the first half, it was Kim Fazio who delivered the first goal that ignited a 6-0 run.
"I've been playing with Kim since we started and it's so fun watching her get better," McKeveny said. "We're all best friends on that line, so that chemistry, knowing each other that well, is what made us successful."
Katie Trombetta controlled the midfield, and her 40 points led Long Island. But alongside her was Karyn Ryan, the quiet star, who shined most in the state final, scoring twice in the 3-0 victory over Liverpool on Nov. 18.
And Katie Doherty, with her stick skills and tenacity, emerged as "a powerful leader," Ryan said. Doherty's goal and assist sparked Sachem East in a 3-0 win over Massapequa in the Long Island championship.
Senior Stephanie Bagley anchored a lock-down defense that allowed only seven goals, and none in its final five games. "But it couldn't have happened without Nikki [Healy] and Kyle [Larkin] learning as quickly as they did," Bagley said.
Healy shifted from midfield this year and Larkin, a standout lacrosse goalie, recently picked up field hockey. "By the end of the season, they were so good," Bagley said, "we expected great things."
And with a defense so stout, goalie Jordan Miller had only 12 saves to make in the playoffs. In contrast, a year ago, her stops in penalty strokes literally saved Sachem East in the state tournament.
"My teammates held it down, so I didn't get a chance to make it dramatic this time," Miller joked. "This team was too good."
Top to bottom, this team was perfect. In the end, Sachem East bested Sachem East.