Northport celebrates head coach Carol Rainson-RoseÕs 500th win after a...

Northport celebrates head coach Carol Rainson-RoseÕs 500th win after a Suffolk Class A semifinal girls lacrosse game against host Commack on Friday, May 17, 2024. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

The spectacular achievements and gratifying events for Carol Rainson-Rose have grown almost too numerous to count on the road to her 500th career coaching win. However, none may have been as rewarding as No. 500 itself. And it has less to do with the sport of girls lacrosse — in which she has been a trailblazer — than one might think.

There already were Northport’s 15 county championships (beginning with that first one in 1996), the seven Long Island titles and the two state public school crowns. She has developed and motivated hundreds of girls who went on to tremendous heights, including several college coaches. And with an unquenchable passion for her sport and the Long Island community, she built the Long Island Yellow Jackets program from its origins as a bunch of kids from a handful of Island towns into the largest and arguably most impactful youth organization in the country.

However, what made No. 500 — Northport’s 8-7 Suffolk Class A semifinal triumph over Commack on Friday — an event that brought Rainson-Rose to tears was because of who was standing on the sideline with her.

Alton Rose, who has been an assistant coach since they started the Northport program in 1990 and her husband since 1991, had surgery to remove a brain tumor last August and subsequently was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma. More than anything since then, she has wanted him right by her side, walking the path to No. 500.

“I’m so grateful to have him here for this,” Rainson-Rose said, her eyes welling with tears. “This is what I’d hoped for and you just don’t know. We’ve been through a lot. It means so much that we’re together for this.”

“I know that if it wasn’t for her and for this team, I wouldn’t be here today,” Alton Rose said, with the words of emotion catching in his throat. “They were with me after I got out of the hospital. Her love — and the support of that team — gave me the energy to make it to this season.”

Northport assistant coach Alexis Curcio described the two of them as “best friends and soulmates — connected like no couple I’ve seen.”

Many of the Tigers — who will face top-seeded Ward Melville in Friday’s county title game at West Islip — had etched “500” in ink onto themselves before the game, mostly on their palms. Rainson-Rose said she didn’t even notice the markings until after the final buzzer had sounded and they’d devoured her in a team embrace.

And it should be no surprise because Rainson-Rose inspires her players to do great things for her by helping them recognize and realize all their potential.

“Her players want to perform for her because she has helped them see and believe all they are capable of,” said Curcio, who played for her at Northport and first returned to join her staff as an assistant in 2012. “Having a person like Carol buy into who you are is powerful.”

“Of course we are driven to impress her,” sophomore Kate Atkinson said. “Her legacy is insane.”

Added freshman Riley Cash, “She believes we can meet the expectations and so you want to play for her. She is the best.”

Rainson-Rose started the Northport program for the 1990 season. She’d loved playing lacrosse at Manhasset High and Cortland State and took the position because she wanted to share her passion with the game she fell for in high school.

While her zeal took a place on the sideline, her desire to win remained on the field. After her Tigers lost the 1995 county championship to Huntington by one goal, her determination to make Northport a champion became unquenchable.

“She is competitive and won’t accept losing,” Alton Rose said, “and the next year we went back to the championship and beat them by one goal.”

“I’ve always been a baller,” she said.

A similar story lies behind the birth of the Yellowjackets program. Rainson-Rose took area players to a summer tournament to face opponents in Maryland and, as her husband remembers, “those Maryland girls really showed her something.”

“They killed us,” Rainson-Rose said. “But more kids wanted to go the next year, and before long we formed a club and started bringing multiple teams.”

The Yellowjackets now field 32 teams in an assortment of age groups and the level of their play rivals those in any part of the country.

“Carol is nothing short of a pioneer,” Northport athletic director Mark Dantuono said. “Her efforts played a huge role in Long Island becoming a power in girls lacrosse. For our school, she has been dedicated to the people in the community and has fostered a culture of excellence on our team.”

A 500th career victory — a number unmatched in the state girls lacrosse record books on the NYSPHSAA site — begs an explanation of what keeps her coming back.

Her answer is a simple one.

“Yes, to make it this far is hard to do, but there has been a lot around me sustaining this,” she said. “I have dedicated coaches that I work with, a tremendous community in Northport that is behind us and amazing kids. Every year, it’s a new group that is dialed in and ready to embrace the process with smiles on their faces . . . I couldn’t ask for much more.”


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