West Islip learned its lesson in a one-goal loss to Middle Country on April 23. Nine shots? That wasn't going to cut it. "We knew we needed to shoot more," junior midfielder Vanessa Costantino said. "We took nine shots as a team that game. Nine! One player should be taking that many."
In the teams' second go-round, Lena Riportella took that mentality to heart. The senior captain scored six times on eight shots Tuesday, including the winner (on the Lions' 21st shot) off a pass from Emily Beier in second-seeded West Islip's 11-10 overtime win over previously unbeaten and top-seeded Middle Country in the Suffolk Class A girls lacrosse final.
West Islip (16-3) will play the winner of Wednesday's Nassau Class A final between top-seeded Syosset and third-seeded Farmingdale at 5 p.m. Saturday at Adelphi.
"I didn't want this to be my final game. And our goal, as a team, is to be state champs," Riportella said. "We looked back to that game we lost against them and used it to push us."
West Islip's game plan was evident from the opening whistle. The Lions scored three goals -- two by Riportella and one by Emily Picciullo -- in the first 2:26 to take a 3-0 lead.
Then the Ortega sisters sprang to life for Middle Country (18-1). They hadn't forgotten about last year's one-goal loss to West Islip in a Class A semifinal. Senior Nikki Ortega (three goals, one assist) scored with 21:51 left in the first quarter. Sophomore Jamie Ortega (four goals) cut the deficit to 5-4 with 9:19 left in the first half.
"They're amazing. Two studs," West Islip coach Joe Nicolosi said. "All we could do was try and slow them down."
Riportella scored 31 seconds into the second half to give West Islip an 8-6 lead, but Jamie Ortega answered with two goals to tie it. Riportella and Middle Country's Rachel Masullo traded goals to send the game into overtime.
Ava Barry whipped a pass to Nikki Ortega, who scored with 40 seconds to go in the first overtime for the Wolverines' first lead of the game. After Middle Country won the next draw, Lauren Distefano (10 saves) made a point-blank save and cleared it, setting the stage for Costantino's tying goal with 18 seconds left in the first OT.
On a free position with 2:18 left in the second overtime, Beier took a step forward before passing to a wide-open Riportella for the winner.
Said Costantino: "Lena gave us everything she had."