Alexa Gentile and Sophia Cardello are eighth-graders at Berner Middle School in Massapequa, which you wouldn’t guess if you saw them play lacrosse. They played integral roles Wednesday in extending Massapequa’s season.
Gentile and Cardello made game-saving defensive plays in the final minute of the Nassau Class A championship, leading top-seeded Massapequa to a 10-9 win over No. 2 Oceanside at Bethpage.
“I’ve never had a team that believed in two girls so much, and they seem to never disappoint us,” senior Allison Stackpole said.
With less than a minute left and trailing 10-9, Oceanside was on the attack. Cassie Cesario broke free of the defense and stared down Cardello, the team’s only goalie. Cesario went low and attempted to skip the ball past Cardello with about 50 seconds left, but the young goalie pinned the head of her own stick to the ground and swatted the ball away.
Oceanside regained possession with 15 seconds left and pressured Massapequa before Gentile forced a turnover and sealed the win.
“In the beginning of the season, we had a rough start,” Massapequa coach Megan Protano said. “We’re very young. To have two eighth-graders at the end finish it for us is just incredible and something I never would’ve guessed.”
Gentile’s clutch defense was the cherry on top of an already impressive game. The midfielder had four goals and an assist, including the Chiefs’ final goal, which put them ahead 10-6 with 11:58 to play.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunity of letting us play,” Gentile said. “Me and Sophia, we feel so comfortable with the seniors and our teammates.”
A 7-5 halftime lead for Massapequa (10-6) became 9-5 after freshman Sophie Macchia assisted Jaclyn Gatti’s goal, then scored on a feed from Gentile.
But Oceanside (9-8) ended the game on a 4-1 run that began with 19:52 left in the second half. The first of Christina McCabe’s game-high five goals made it 9-6 before Gentile scored about eight minutes later. Cesario scored off assists from McCabe and Kaitlyn Rapp, cutting Oceanside’s deficit to 10-8 with 8:51 to play. The Sailors’ final score came with 2:54 left on McCabe’s unassisted drive to the cage.
Cardello, in her first varsity season, admitted she had to overcome nerves. “I was a little nervous at the beginning of the day and I kept thinking about it, but I was just really confident in my team,” she said. “I guess I pulled it together at the end.”
Gentile, in her second year on varsity, said she wasn’t too nervous. “I just had to put myself in the seniors’ shoes and play like a senior,” she said.
Massapequa will play Suffolk Class A champion West Islip in the Long Island Championship at noon Sunday at Stony Brook’s LaValle Stadium.