Garden City's Marie Cacciabaudo gets past Alexia Giannakopoulos of Manhasset...

Garden City's Marie Cacciabaudo gets past Alexia Giannakopoulos of Manhasset during the annual Woodstock Classic girls lacrosse game in Garden City on Saturday, May 6, 2023. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

The most important play in one of the most anticipated girls lacrosse regular season games on Long Island every year may not have come courtesy of a goal, assist or even a timely save.

A ground ball. A statistic that won’t appear in basic box scores, but an element to the game’s most crucial aspect – possession. And Garden City senior Marie Cacciabaudo won a ground ball in the offensive zone with Garden City leading by a goal with one minute left to preserve possession. The Trojans later scored after running the clock down to eight seconds in an 8-6 home victory over Manhasset in the girls lacrosse Woodstick Classic on Saturday afternoon.

“I knew I had to get it,” Cacciabaudo said. “I had to run through as fast as I could to get it. The little plays mean so much, especially in the big games. That gave us the possession at the end of the game and that’s what matters most. Just taking care of the ball.”

The Woodstick Classic is one of the biggest regular season matchups for both Manhasset and Garden City every year. Not just the players on the field but for the entire community.

“We look at games like Woodstick, LICs, states, we put them all in the same [category] because this matters for our town,” said Grace Hopkins, who had a goal and two assists. “This matters to us so coming out here with as much energy as possible, that’s what it’s all about.”

Garden City wasted little time on Saturday. The Trojans scored the game’s first four goals in the opening seven minutes. Hopkins had a goal and an assist during that span in a matchup that’s also a Conference I battle.

“It set the tone for the game,” Hopkins said. “We really took hold of the first half. We pressed the cage, didn’t take the pedal off the metal and that’s why we were successful. Being able to do that against a team like Manhasset, it doesn’t happen often.”

Garden City (10-3, 7-1) took a 7-3 lead into halftime but the Trojans knew it wouldn’t be that easy. Manhasset (5-5, 4-4) held Garden City off the scoreboard nearly the entire second half and Caitlin Barrett scored with 2:55 left to cut Garden City’s lead to 7-6. The Trojans scored their final goal on an empty net with eight seconds left.

“They were fighting,” Garden City coach Dave Ettinger said. “They didn’t give up so you have to give credit to them and their coaches to keep playing. We were making too many turnovers, we kept giving them chances but we found a way to win it.”

Goalkeeper Niamh Pfaff and the entire Garden City defense was pivotal toward that victory by holding Manhasset to just six goals. The junior goalie had 10 saves.

“Any time your goalie plays like that, it’s going to give you a chance to hold the other team down,” Ettinger said. “She made the saves she’s supposed to and she made the saves that she’s not supposed to.”

“Once you get the first few [saves], you’re kind of feeling it and I definitely was toward the end of the game,” Pfaff said. “And I think that comes from the energy that we brought. It pushes you to play your best.”

Kendal Morris and Kyle Finnell each scored two goals and Maureen Arendt added a goal and two assists in the win. Harper Lambert had three goals for Manhasset.

“It’s never easy when you play them,” Ettinger said. “It’s two historic programs. It’s a game that’s being played every year and a game I’m sure both teams circle on their calendar for the excitement of it and definitely the history of it.”

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