CORTLAND, N.Y. — With the clock winding down on Saturday, Krissy Kowalski smothered a low shot from close range.
This wasn’t a rare occurrence for the senior, who stopped seven shots Saturday and countless more during a stellar varsity career. This particular save was different, though. With the ball safely in her stick, Kowalski turned her head, saw the clock hit zero and was mobbed by her teammates for the final time.
The play capped a stellar defensive effort for Kowalski and Manhasset, which defeated Rochester-Brighton, 6-4, at SUNY-Cortland to win the state Class B girls lacrosse championship. Kowalski earned game MVP honors and a relentless effort by the Manhasset defenders forced 14 turnovers.
“I’ve dreamed about this moment my entire life,” said Kowalski, who will play for Penn next season and has been on the varsity since her freshman year. “I’m happy to bring this back to Manhasset. It definitely feels special to be a part of this.”
“It’s great having her back there,” defender Erin Trotta said. “You can’t be perfect as a defense and sometimes girls are going to get through, so when you have someone like Krissy who makes as many saves as she does, it’s really clutch.”
Maria Themelis opened the scoring for Manhasset (20-1) with 16:35 left in the first half and Alexander Petras and Shea Garcia added goals in the final 10 minutes of the period. Brighton (16-6) scored with six seconds left in the first and about four minutes into the second to cut Manhasset’s lead to 3-2 before the Indians clamped down again.
“Just locking down on all the cutters, getting into our zones and playing as a unit was the key to everything,” Olivia Dooley said of the defensive effort.
“Communication is such a big part of what we do,” Casey Roszko said. “We don’t play as individuals. We play as a unit.”
The defensive performance helped spark a 3-0 run at the other end, as goals by Emma Lo Pinto, Themelis (off an assist from Grace Gately) and Lauren Yun put Manhasset ahead 6-2 with 13:59 left.
Brighton picked up a goal four minutes later but did not score again until the final minute.
“I couldn’t do it without my defense,” Kowalski said. “They’re always there to bail me out and pick me up when a goal goes in. The defense was forcing them to the outside and into bad shots. They have my back.”
The unit also had the backs of the usually efficient Manhasset offense, which had its own trouble with turnovers and Brighton goalie Charlotte Sadler, who made seven saves. The effort up front still was enough, thanks to the fact that Brighton had as many turnovers as shot attempts.
“We like to sit back and wait until we have an opportunity to attack and pressure players we know we can get the ball from,” defender Caroline Mondiello said. “And whenever we do slip up, Krissy is always there.”