For the third year in a row, West Islip is headed to SUNY Cortland for the girls lacrosse state tournament.
It took three-goal performances from both Emily Beier and Emily Piciullo to outlast Massapequa, 6-4, on Sunday in the Long Island Class A championship game on a rainy afternoon at Stony Brook’s LaValle Stadium.
“It gets better every year,” said Beier, a junior. “We always raise the bar each year. This year, we raised it a lot.”
After a 2-2 first half, Beier and Piciullo set the tone early in the second. Piciullo began the scoring five minutes into the half, taking a feed from Vanessa Costantino and sending the shot past Sophia Cardello, who made 11 saves for the Chiefs.
Next it was Beier from Costantino with 11:29 remaining, giving the Lions a 4-2 advantage. Piciullo scored again with 8:59 left for West Islip’s largest lead, 5-2.
Massapequa threatened on goals by Kole Pollock and Cara Scanio inside eight minutes, but Costantino again found Beier with 4:46 left for the final score.
“We realized the goalie’s tendencies,” Beier said of the second-half strategy. “We started shooting a little high; she’s great low. Shot selection was better.”
Piciullo, usually an attacker, also was clutch defensively. She and midfielder Danielle Marino were tasked with face-guarding Alexa Gentile, Massapequa’s dynamic eighth-grader, who already had shown the ability to take over games.
West Islip coach Joe Nicolosi didn’t want to take any chances with the young star. His goal was to keep Gentile from dictating the outcome. “You have to contain her,” he said. “She’s a great player. I know she’s young, but she’s a great player. It doesn’t matter if she’s young.”
His game plan was executed perfectly. Outside of a few draw controls and clears, Gentile mostly was kept in check. This helped the West Islip defense keep Massapequa out of sync.
“I loved it,” Piciullo said of the challenge. “I loved the energy because I was very pumped the whole game.”
Piciullo already was motivated because of the road West Islip took to get to the Long Island final. West Islip (16-4) lost four games in April, leading some to overlook the defending state champion. But Nicolosi’s group took being the No. 3 seed in the Suffolk Class A playoffs in stride, eventually knocking off top-seeded Smithtown West in the title game.
It’s this experience, coupled with three straight Long Island titles, that has Piciullo confident heading into Friday’s state semifinal against Pittsford.
“We know what we’re fighting for,” she said. “We know the feeling. Most people don’t.”