The Sayville girls lacrosse team knew the wrath that awaited them at the end of its 26-mile bus ride to Huntington on Monday afternoon.
The last time the Golden Flashes (8-2) were on Huntington's artificial turf, the home team was stunned. A one-point, double-overtime loss to Sayville in the semifinal round of the Suffolk Class B playoffs last year left the Blue Devils (6-3) salivating for a chance at revenge.
Sayville got off to a quick start in its 12-8 win Monday in Division II in the teams' first meeting since, but knew to brace for the inevitable storm.
"We knew last year's game was going to be in the back of their minds," senior midfielder Kaitlyn Wandelt said. "They didn't lose very many players from last year, and they were a great team then. We knew we had to come out strong."
They didn't waste much time. Goals by Wandelt, senior midfielder Mackenzie Burns and sophomore attacker Kelly Marra in the first 6:46 of play gave the Golden Flashes a 3-0 lead. But shortly thereafter, with Sayville leading 6-2, came the storm.
It happened, it seemed, in an instant. Sayville's four-goal lead shrank to one after Samantha Lynch scored twice and Irina DeSimone had a goal during a three-minute stretch toward the end of the half. That's what made Julianne Johnston's goal at the halftime buzzer significant in more ways than one.
After Sayville goalie Molly Andrews made a stop with 12 seconds remaining, Johnston got the ball with 10 seconds left and sprinted nearly three-fourths of the field for a goal at the buzzer. The home crowd fell silent, in disbelief as much as anything else.
"I knew there wasn't a lot of time left," Johnston said. "I saw the clock and I saw the goalie and I had a lane. The difference between a one-goal lead and a two-goal lead, in a game like this, it's just huge. I knew I had to finish."
On the other side of the break, and with the 20-mph winds now at Sayville's back, Wandelt, who had four goals and an assist, came out with the same fearlessness that helped propel the Golden Flashes in their title run last year. She scored the first three goals of the second half, each an aggressive drive inside through heavy traffic.
"Instinct takes over in those situations," Wandelt said. "I kind of just black out and go with it."
Burns' third goal of the game capped Sayville's 4-0 run to begin the second half. Burns also had three assists. Marra had three goals and an assist, and freshman attacker Meg Collins added a goal.
Lynch led Huntington with five goals, and Katie Reilly had two goals and an assist.
The county-title run that included two one-goal wins before a 5-3 victory against two-time defending county champ Eastport-South Manor instilled a particular confidence in these Golden Flashes. The team graduated six seniors -- but only three starters -- from last year's team.
"A lot of the girls are back from that team," coach Adam Sznitken said. "When you have a playoff run like we did last year, when every game was so close, we rely on that experience and I think it plays big.
"Our league is ridiculously tough. There are so many great teams. But you saw the way we responded today."